Monday 19 March 2018

The Irish question

There is an important question hanging over Brexit, that has not been resolved, and I can't see how it can be resolved.

It's the Irish question.

The Republic is in the EU. Soon, the UK will not be in the EU. So there will be a border. On one side of the border is an area with EU tariffs, on the other with UK tariffs.

When the UK was in the EU, this was not a problem; Eu tariffs = UK tariffs. But what now?

If we had a single free-trade area, there would not be a problem, even with the UK outside the EU. But this isn't going to happen. The hard-liners in the Tory party would rather cut their own throats.

If we had free trade between Northern Ireland and the Republic, that would solve the problem, but then there's a trade barrier between Northern ireland and the rest of the UK, so that isn't going to happen, the DUP would eat Theresa May *and* Boris before they let that happen.

So we are going to have a tariff barrier between Northern Ireland and the Republic, with customs barriers and infrastructure and everything that goes with a land border. Except that we've promised we wont. The Republic won't wear it, and they get a veto, as part of the EU27.

It's a problem like a fidget spinner, with three sides that you keep turning. Why didn't The Powers That Be see this coming two years ago?

1 comment:

  1. It's about much more than tariffs. Regulatory alignment covers all sorts of things such as rules governing animal health. Recall that NI cows became Irish as soon as British beef was banned in the rest of the EU after the BSE crisis. Consider that any smuggling of US hormone beef into the EU via Ireland could, if passed off as Irish, be devastating for Irish exports. Neither Ireland nor the EU can live with regulatory divergence and an open border, and the UK is committed to an open border. The real complexity of the situation extends far beyond what appears in UK media. Tony Connelly's book Ireland and Brexit is the best guide but may be TMI. See @hayward_katy for some clear, well-informed comment. Eg shredding of brexiteer fantasies about a tech border (since abandoned by the Commons NI committee w no dissent from 3 DUP members).