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Montevideo, September 23rd 2018 - 22:22 UTC

North Ireland “hard border” controversy surfaces in in London and Brussels

Wednesday, February 28th 2018 - 09:23 UTC
Full article 3 comments
In the letter, obtained by Sky News, Boris Johnson tells Theresa May 95% of traffic would still pass unchecked if there was a hard border in North Ireland. In the letter, obtained by Sky News, Boris Johnson tells Theresa May 95% of traffic would still pass unchecked if there was a hard border in North Ireland.
Johnson was criticized by opponents for suggesting in a BBC interview the issue of the border could be managed as easily as London's congestion charging zone. Johnson was criticized by opponents for suggesting in a BBC interview the issue of the border could be managed as easily as London's congestion charging zone.

The British government has dismissed any prospect of a return to a “hard border” on the island of Ireland after Brexit. It followed the leak of a letter from Boris Johnson in which he appeared to contemplate future customs border checks after the UK leaves the EU.

In the letter, obtained by Sky News, the foreign secretary tells Theresa May 95% of traffic would still pass unchecked if there was a hard border. It comes as the EU is set to publish a draft of its Brexit withdrawal treaty.

The 120-page document, to be unveiled on Wednesday, will refer to three possible options for avoiding physical infrastructure on the Irish border but the only one to be fleshed out will be the government's least-favorite: Northern Ireland staying aligned with European rules and regulations.

The document, marking another major milestone on the UK's road to Brexit, will encapsulate in legally binding text agreements already reached on Ireland, citizens' rights and the UK's so-called “divorce bill”.

According to reports by Irish broadcaster RTE, the text - which EU negotiator Michel Barnier has said will not contain any surprises - will say that Northern Ireland may be considered part of European Union customs territory after Brexit, alluding to a single regulatory space on the island of Ireland with no internal barriers.

Earlier on Tuesday, foreign secretary Johnson was criticized by opponents for suggesting in a BBC interview the issue of the border could be managed as easily as London's congestion charging zone.

In his letter to the prime minister, Mr. Johnson seeks to play down the “exaggerated impression” of “how important checks are” at EU external borders.

He also appears to contemplate a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, writing: “Even if a hard border is reintroduced, we would expect to see 95% + of goods pass the border [without] checks.”

Following the letter's emergence, Labour called for Mr. Johnson - one of the leading Brexiteers in the cabinet - to be dismissed “before he can do any more damage”.

“This man's ego, and his Brexit at any cost strategy cannot be allowed to jeopardize peace,” said shadow Northern Ireland secretary Owen Smith. A spokesman for Mr. Johnson said the letter was “designed to outline how a highly facilitated border would work and help to make a successful Brexit”.

”The letter points out there is a border now, and the task the (cabinet Brexit) committee face is stopping this becoming significantly harder,“ he said.

”It shows how we could manage a border without infrastructure or related checks and controls while protecting UK, Northern Ireland, Irish and EU interests.“

He added: ”We will not accept any physical infrastructure at the border, and will instead seek alternatives that allow us to leave the customs union and take back control of our money, borders, laws and trading policy.“

No 10 said it had made it clear ”on numerous occasions” the UK government will not contemplate a hard border after the UK leaves the EU on 29 March 2019.

Categories: Politics, International.

Top Comments

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  • Bisley

    These politicians are liars and idiots. If there is an international border, there must be customs and immigration control, otherwise there is no way to control smuggling and evasion of import duties, or have any knowledge of , or control over who enters the country. Northern Ireland can't be both UK and EU -- it's either a part of the UK, subject to British law, and with a real border, or it's independent, part of the Irish Republic, or something else.

    Feb 28th, 2018 - 02:57 pm +1
  • Conqueror

    @Bisley. You are, of course, quite wrong. The Republic of Ireland is a “special case”. On the immigration front, the Republic has always been a part of the Common Travel Area.

    On the subject of customs, there have long been systems whereby declarations are made in advance at places remote from the border. It then becomes the norm for customs officers to exercise controls at the places where goods are despatched and received. It is, of course, possible that the Republic hasn't made the leap into the 21st century. Never mind, I'm sure that the UK will be willing to sell it the required technology.

    In terms of physical controls, automatic numberplate recognition cameras coupled with armed drones should be quite adequate. I note the preparations being made for recovery of control over waters within the UK EEZ. I particularly noted the intention to use drones and armed patrols. Having taken note of material from drones screened on television, I see no reason to doubt that armed drones are quite capable of “taking care” of anything from large fishing vessels down through trucks and cars to individuals. Law-breaking Dutch fish poachers down to Irish cross-border smugglers should take note. I understand that the UK uses the MQ-9 Reaper that can carry either the US Hellfire or MBDA Brimstone missiles.

    Mar 01st, 2018 - 12:45 pm 0
  • :o))

    @Bisley

    Hard border, Soft border, Border, No-Border - for the smugglers, it's just a minor change in their modus operandi [facilitated by the politicians]!

    Feb 28th, 2018 - 06:00 pm -1
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