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Monday, June 04, 2018

UK Government all at sea over failed plans on Northern Ireland border

Government schemes to try to reconcile the impossible conundrum of the UK leaving the single market whilst at the same time maintaining a seamless, tariff-free border between Northern Ireland the Irish Republic, have been coming at us thick and fast in recent weeks.

All of them are unworkable, none of them have proved to be acceptable to the EU, whilst many of them have the air of a Heath Robinson contraption, drawn up on the back of a Portcullis House napkin without once consulting with the people charged with making the arrangement work.

And so the latest, so-called solution has bit the dust, with The Times reporting that Brexit Secretary, David Davis has conceded that surveillance technology cannot be used to police the Northern Ireland border in a major climbdown that leaves Brexiteers’ favoured customs plan in disarray.

The paper says that pressure from the Police Service of Northern Ireland and concerns over civil liberties mean that a key part of the Brexit secretary’s blueprint to deal with the border has had to go back to the drawing board, with a crucial EU summit less than four weeks away:

Mr Davis is understood to have indicated this week that he would not push for solutions that involved monitoring or surveillance to track goods. This could have included asking businesses that regularly trade across the UK border to install British government smartphone tracking apps or asking businesses on either side of the border to submit to British government tracking.

Ministers have already ruled out new infrastructure at the border, including cameras, or additional checks on vehicles. This leaves a major hole in the “max fac” plan for customs, which would mean a hard exit from the customs union in 2021 with delays at all EU-UK borders minimised by smart technology.

So it is back to the drawing board, with the only other plan being both unworkable and unacceptable to the DUP and most other sane people. This one was possibly designed by Wallace and Gromit and involved Northern Ireland operating a “double hatted” regime of being subject to EU and British regulations at the same time “so it can trade freely with both”, and have a ten-mile “special economic zone” or buffer for local traders.

I don't remember any of these difficulties being painted on the side of a bus two years ago. The sooner the UK Government wakes up and realises that the only real solution is to stay within the single market (and the EU) the better.
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