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UK to EU: The Ball is in Your Court

by John Brian Shannon

Theresa May naively assumed that if she could just come up with the ‘right’ Brexit deal the EU would sign it and life would be good for citizens on both sides of the English Channel forever, and ever, and ever… (queue the dreamy music now)

Which sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? Theresa May crisscrosses Europe for two years doing political hand stands for the EU elite, comes up with a Brexit plan that works well for both sides, the good people of the UK and the EU return to their normal happy lives and the only difference is a border between the UK and the EU.

Fluffy white kittens and playful sparrows as far as the eye can see! Can you hear Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons wafting across the lavender fields towards you?

(Not me. After the EU’s failure at Salzburg, I hear music to accompany Milton’s Paradise Lost. Even the most tone-deaf can tell the difference between those tunes)

But, such was not to be. ‘Theresa May the Naive’ didn’t realize the EU never intended to get a deal. Their ‘deal’ was to break the will of Theresa May and break the indomitable spirit of the British people who dared vote against their elitist, corporatist club.

And God love Theresa May for thinking it was all about ‘getting the right deal’ instead of realizing that it was all about having to forfeit Northern Ireland, £40 billion in taxpayer cash, and every subsequent British Prime Minister kneeling before the EU politburo as part of their penance until more suitable punishment can be arranged. How medieval…


Time to Give Up on Negotiations, Theresa?

Don’t tempt her…

After using up considerable political capital (in order to cater to EU leaders) on the path towards getting a Brexit deal that works for both sides, and getting practically nowhere, Theresa May must now find herself at the crossroads — wondering what to do next.

And the simple answer is; Nothing.

Do nothing, Theresa, because no matter what you offer it won’t be good enough!

Not only are the EU in denial that the UK is leaving, they want to punish the UK and its people for leaving the union and nothing you can do will save them from their grief.

At this point, the only play left in the big diplomatic book is to stop. doing. anything. and. wait.

Not through any fault of yours — you’ve served them your best plan and it wasn’t good enough. But no matter what you served it wouldn’t have satisfied them.

The way you must play it now is to withdraw yourself from the constant ‘coming up with plans’ modality to arrange a suitable Brexit for both sides — because they have no interest in that. Why waste your time and remaining political capital?

No more traipsing around Europe trying to work with EU leaders, no more coming up with policy alternatives, no more allowing yourself to be set-up for failure!

It may take years for their hurt feelings dissipate, but as the British Prime Minister you must do what’s necessary for the UK, and in the absence of a deal with the EU, you must begin planning for a Hard Brexit on January 1, 2019.

Why January 1, 2019? Because there’s almost zero chance at a reasonable Brexit deal with the EU between now and March 29, 2019.

And every month that passes, the UK will be losing billions of pounds sterling (not only paying £8.6 billion more per year into the EU than the UK gets back, but in lost trade that could be earning the UK billions) in the meantime.

It’s not inconceivable the UK would be losing anywhere from £1 billion to £10 billion per month in lost trade each month it waits for the EU to agree a deal before March 29, 2019.

And that isn’t what responsible UK Prime Ministers do. Is it?

Responsible Prime Ministers try their best to arrange a reasonable deal and when that doesn’t work — it’s time to get back to running the country and getting out of a bad deal that’s costing the UK billions of pounds per month. ASAP.

“You’re welcome to visit me in London to discuss Brexit, but otherwise I’m busy.”

EU, the ball is in your court.

Northern Ireland and the ‘Soft Border’ Option

by John Brian Shannon

Thanks to the dedication of thousands of people, the problems that plagued Northern Ireland for decades have all but disappeared. While we mourn those lost during ‘The Troubles’ we must move forward and provide the best possible future for the people of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

The best way to continue to move forward is for a ‘soft’ border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland so that free movement of people and unimpeded trade may continue along the 310 mile border.

Many people on both sides of the border meet for tea, travel across the border to shop, or are employed on the other side of the border and it would be unfair to require these people to face a regular border crossing twice daily. And a hard border would hinder trade, which trade is a vital part of the local economy along both sides of the divide.


A dedicated ‘Commonwealth and Ireland’ line at UK ports of entry

The smartest thing the Home Office UK Visas and Immigration department could do is to create a separate queue line at all UK ports of entry and mark it “Commonwealth and Ireland” so that people from Commonwealth countries or from the Republic of Ireland have a dedicated and streamlined entry into Britain.

In this way, goods and people can move much more efficiently between those jurisdictions.

If it sounds like I want to favour people from Commonwealth nations, you’re right. If it sounds like I want to favour people from Northern Ireland who may decide to fly to Britain from points overseas, you’d be right.


Special Treatment at UK ports of entry: A ‘Nexus Card’ for frequent travelers between Ireland and any UK port of entry

Here in North America, citizens who cross the U.S. / Canada border can apply for a Nexus Card or an Enhanced Driver’s Licence — either of which dramatically speed border crossing times for holders of those cards — and not incidentally, lowers wait times for the people in the non-Nexus lineups because fewer people (or vehicles) are traveling in that particular queue.

Such a streamlined customs experience should be extended to all Republic of Ireland citizens as a courtesy — and to the government of the Republic of Ireland in exchange for their help in patrolling and securing the border with Northern Ireland.


The UK Government (UK.gov) Paper on Northern Ireland and Ireland

Stormont is the seat of the Northern Ireland Assembly and is located in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Stormont is the seat of the Northern Ireland Assembly and is located in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Image courtesy of visitbelfast.com

“The UK government pledges to protect the Belfast Agreement and Common Travel Area in new position paper published August 16, 2017.

The Government has today published a comprehensive paper which outlines the UK’s position on addressing the unique circumstances of Northern Ireland and the land border with Ireland.

The position paper — which has been published ahead of the August negotiating round — states that the Government will protect the Common Travel Area (CTA) and associated rights for UK and Irish citizens, and put upholding the Belfast (‘Good Friday’) Agreement at the heart of its Exit negotiations.

The paper also puts forward proposals on avoiding a hard border on the movement of goods — making clear the UK’s position that there should be no physical infrastructure at the border — and plans to preserve the wide range of institutional cooperation between Northern Ireland, Ireland and Great Britain including for the energy market.” — From the UK.gov website


Trade Between the UK and the Republic of Ireland

Billions of pounds sterling in trade cross between the UK and the Republic of Ireland and a significant amount of it is spent in the small and medium-sized business (SME) trade. Keeping the border open, yet enhancing security will be a challenge for both the UK and the Republic of Ireland, but with good will and some visionary thinking it shouldn’t be too difficult to get an agreement that benefits the largest number of people.

Brexit - Ireland and UK trade
Brexit – Ireland and UK trade in numbers. Image courtesy of cso.ie

A Soft Border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland is in everyone’s interest

For as long as the Republic of Ireland remains a member of the European Union it’s in everyone’s best interests to keep the soft border arrangement and to work together to enhance security on both sides of that soft border by any reasonable means.

If that means having facial recognition technology and vehicle license plate readers at all government buildings and properties, ferry terminals and international airports in Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, it’s a small price to pay to preserve and enhance security for the EU, for the Republic of Ireland, and the UK including Northern Ireland.

The soft border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland must work for citizens of each country, for small (and large) business, and it must ensure a high level of security for both the UK and the EU. This is one Brexit negotiation that must succeed for the benefit of all.