Brian O’Neill’s depressed view of Dominic Raab’s contingency plans for Northern Ireland amounting to “ask Dublin” is shared by many. But there is a slightly different way of looking at it. The Irish government are ready and willing to be asked. Join the flow of the Irish Times story.
Checks on goods travelling from Britain to Northern Ireland would be carried out at British ports under fresh ideas to make the so-called backstop easier to agree.
The Irish Times understands that, under new ideas, customs and regulatory checks would be located in Britain rather than Northern Ireland.
It is also suggested that checks could be low-profile in nature and carried out by private contractors.
Efforts to make the backstop more palatable are currently being “tossed around”, but it is stressed that no specific proposals have been tabled in negotiations. The lack of alternatives coming from the UK has meant the EU is attempting to make its proposal more politically acceptable.
“The North could have the best of both worlds,” a senior Government source said. “It could have access to the EU and UK markets. On freedom of travel, that is already there. We are going to maintain the Common Travel Area.”
Checks would only be needed on goods travelling to Northern Ireland from the UK, and not the other way around, because of the prospect of them entering the EU single market through the Irish Republic.
On Thursday, the British government said it will seek to negotiate a special arrangement for North-South trade to ensure that the Border remains open even in the event of a no-deal Brexit. But trade between the Republic and the rest of the UK could be subject to the same bureaucratic arrangements facing other member states.
And there’s the rub. Trade between RoI and GB is vastly greater than north-south while apparently less politically incendiary. Does Dublin care less about it than an open border? That is where London is trying to stick in the Chequers lever.
(The selfie is for fun, in the spirit of Brian’s Ha’penny Bridge and to just to show I get around)
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London