“I think we must also recognise that there are real economic reasons why people have played up the issue of the Irish border…”

Played up is right.  Labour Party front bencher, the shadow trade secretary, Barry Gardiner, a former NIO minister, has apologised for “informal remarks in a meeting last month“, in particular, that his “use of the word ‘shibboleth’ in its sense of ‘password’ or ‘test of membership’ gave the impression that I thought the Good Friday Agreement was in any way outdated or unimportant. I absolutely do not.”  Which is fine.  But his recorded comments, last month, during a Q&A session after a speech … Read more

The Brexit Border in 4 key slides

Recently I decided that what is needed right now are some slides that attempt to put the Brexit border issue as simply as possible. This is a pared-back and simplified overview of complex matters, but it’s my attempt to provide an outline of what border controls could mean for different types of border with the EU after Brexit. It is the second draft of a work in progress and any corrections, comments and suggestions are welcome. Slide 1 shows the different … Read more

So we just have to be smart. Apparently.

We are assured that technology will fix our borders (quite often by certain politicians, actually).  All we need are CCTV cameras at the border and no checks will be required according to a a report by Lars Karlsson, President of KGH Border Services, Former Director of World Customs Organization and Deputy Director General of Swedish Customs, so we are told by the DUP. Indeed, that’s what the Abstract says: This study, commissioned by the European Parliament’s Policy Department for Citizens’ … Read more

#Brexit: the DUP and the Risks of Not Passing Go

The DUP torpedoed today’s sensible UK-EU compromise deal on the border because, according to an Arlene Foster tweet, the party could not accept any deal which separates Northern Ireland politically from the rest of the UK. This will come as a great surprise to campaigners for marriage equality, liberalisation of the abortion laws, and comprehensive education. There is no great Unionist point of principle against the terms of what was on the table in Brussels earlier today, except on the … Read more

Brexit: Invisible border may not be desirable, but it is certainly possible…

When we read back to this interregnum period between deciding to Brexit, and actually doing it, there are going to be some embarrassing moments, not least that official who said that it would not be possible to walk your dog across the border. Anyone who has encountered the Swiss border in their travels will know it’s not the two layers of barbed wire fencing portrayed as Steve McQueen tried to make it across in the German motorcycle and sidecar. Some … Read more

The Irish border as a Brexit bargaining chip: A rejoinder to Legatum

The Legatum Institute’s ‘Special Trade Commission’ published a paper this week on the subject of Brexit and what it terms ‘the Irish border issue’. Citizens on the island of Ireland need to take note of this for two main reasons. First, Legatum is one of the most influential think tanks in London on the subject of Brexit at the moment – its views are likely to have traction at the highest levels. And, secondly, it perpetuates egregious views of Northern … Read more

Leo Varadkar: “we need to build more bridges and fewer borders”

LEO VARADKAR delivered a robust but polite lecture at Queen’s University Belfast this morning, his first public engagement in Northern Ireland in his new role as Taoiseach. The artfully crafted speech quoted local poets and Winston Churchill as well as ending with a positive story that echoed something he’d recently heard Jeffrey Donaldson say in Dublin. This was not a speech that intended to be divisive. It offered a partial policy framework, but very little in the way of absolute red lines or dogmatic solutions. However, they were definitely not the words of a political pushover.

“Cars being stopped and searched is not going to happen”

Whilst the BBC quote, at length, the concerns about a post-Brexit border of “a former customs officer in Donegal” whom they interviewed on Radio Foyle, the Irish Revenue Commissioner’s lead official on the topic has been speaking at a conference on Brexit in Dublin organised by the British Irish Chamber of Commerce.  From the Irish Times report The operation of a post-Brexit customs regime can be automated and simplified and does not need customs points with Northern Ireland, the Revenue Commissioner’s … Read more


There has been a lot of talk about trying to avoid a “hard” border post-Brexit, and to preserve the open, free movement of people in the Common Travel Area. So I thought I’d look for some kind of scale of border “hardness”, which really means what degree of openness exists between two countries. The World Economic Forum has come up with metrics for how disruptive borders are to travel and trade. As part of their annual Enabling Trade Report, the WEF recently … Read more

Special Status for the ROI in the EU?

In my post on whether Northern Ireland could stay in or have “special status” in the EU, I concluded that at the very least Northern Ireland does already have special status because everyone has the option of taking up an EU (Irish) passport. I’m now considering whether Brexit may also result in EU “special status” for the Republic. To be clear, this is a think-piece, not a proposal. I’m ruling out the Republic of Ireland actually leaving the EU, as its economy is … Read more

NI’s post Brexit (and unpolicible) border will be dictated by the (un)generosity of #Brexit’s precise terms.

Last night, I rewatched Michael Smiley’s Something to Ride Home For, a light-hearted, three-part TV series featuring interviews and bike rides across Ulster (including Monaghan and Donegal) which was originally broadcast in the summer of 2015. There’s a section in his interview with author Dervla Murphy at Crossmaglen on the shores of what I took to be Lough Ross, which straddles the border, where he reads from her 1979 classic A Place Apart where she discovers she’s crossed the border seven … Read more

Post Brexit, there may be many technological fixes to prevent serious rifts in border life…

There is a lot fanciful nonsense being talked about what will happen to the Irish border post Brexit. Newton Emerson leads with one of the more fanciful ideas in the deployment of drones (which in terms of security are already here) to regulate customs. But he uses that to make a critically important point about how technology is already making the sort of grand projets that have marked the recent history of the EU unnecessary, if not redundant… Over the … Read more

UTV Ireland, UTV and the border question

Sometimes you scroll along your Twitter feed and find a small piece of information that just grabs your eye. Today was one of those days as I saw on UTV Ireland’s twitter feed the response that viewers in Northern Ireland would not be able to recieve programming from the new channel. This tweet caused a bit of a stir on Twitter with some folks protesting that the new channel would not be available in Northern Ireland. So, providing the essential … Read more

Checks on the Scottish border Theresa? Come and look at ours?

Apparently Theresa May thinks there will be border checks along the Scottish border… Well, yes there may be… But not since Maastricht and 1992 has there been any serious commercial disruption along the UK’s only land border… Mick FealtyMick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty