Sunday, July 30, 2017

A hard border in Ireland would be a tragedy - and a sea border would be a farce

When on holiday or visiting family in Ireland I usually arrive on the island via a ferry at Larne and drive through Northern Ireland before reaching the country of Ireland.  So have occasion to cross the UK's one land border, which when Britain leaves the European Union in 2019 will become Britain's border with the EU.

It is a meandering border, several hundred miles long, which is not marked or policed. In many places you only know you have crossed it because the speed limit signs change.

People on both sides of the border work, shop and socialise across it. Many shops and businesses anywhere near the border take both pounds and Euros.

After a lot of agonising about which way to vote, the difficulty of finding a satisfactory means of dealing with this border which does not sabotage either the economies of both parts of Ireland or the ambition for Britain to regain control of it's borders was a significant factor in my eventual decision to vote Remain.

The re-creation of a "hard border" between the two parts of the island would have severe consequences for the economy of both Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Equally, it is difficult to see how you can have freedom of movement between Ireland and the rest of the EU, freedom of movement between Ireland and Northern Ireland, plus freedom of movement between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, and yet not have freedom of movement between Britain and the EU.

Which means that there is no simple solution so we have to find a compromise which works.

Some form of the present Irish "freedom of movement" area with monitoring of movement into and out of the island by people who are not citizens of either Britain or Ireland appears to be the least worst solution.

A "Sea Border" between Britain and Ireland would be unworkable and quickly become a farce.

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