Behind the Headlines

"Irish border issue easily solved": really?

Written on 09/17/2018

What’s the story?

A group of Eurosceptic MPs have claimed that a combination of technological solutions and accepting EU agricultural rules will be enough to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland. Read more in the Daily Mail

How reliable is the story?

Total rubbish. The proposals they make are not new, the technology required does not exist, and all the proposals presented have already been debunked.

What’s the background?

  • The European Research Group (ERG) of Brexit supporting Conservative MPs, released a paper earlier this week claiming the UK can leave the EU single market and customs union without causing a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. Evidence

  • The paper references the Norwegian-Swedish border as one between the EU and a third country where no new infrastructure was needed. Evidence

  • However, Norway is part of the European Economic Area -- which the UK has ruled out -- meaning it abides by EU rules, including allowing the free movement of people, goods, capital and services, and it also contributes funds to the EU. Evidence

  • Despite this, individuals still face limits on what they can bring into Norway, with tariffs on alcohol, tobacco, meat and other goods. Evidence

  • The Norwegian-Swedish border only has 40 border crossings to monitor, while the Irish border has around 275. Evidence

  • One official at the Norwegian-Swedish border estimates that it takes two years to train recruits, and ten before they can confidently spot drug smugglers and fraud involving VAT. Evidence

  • Given that the UK is currently scheduled to leave the EU in just over 6 months, there is not time to recruit and train the number of staff needed for the Irish border. Evidence

  • Finally, customs authorities of Norway and Sweden can exercise their power in each other’s territory in order to carry out proper checks. Evidence

  • It is politically naive to think this is appropriate on the island of Ireland, especially as recent research shows Brexit is threatening the peace process. Evidence

  • Many other solutions are not new, and have already been shown that they aren’t workable or are simply untrue. Evidence

  • For instance, the proposal to use customs technologies to fill out forms online in advance of border-crossings is not appropriate for close, cross-border communities. Evidence

  • Furthermore, the paper misunderstands how VAT procedures currently work, failing to realise current infrastructure provides for administrative checks, not the physical ones that will be required to prevent fraud and smuggling after Brexit. Evidence

  • In fact, the ERG themselves have made this more likely, by proposing an amendment to the cross-border taxation bill that would put the UK in a separate VAT regime to the rest of the EU. Evidence

This Behind the Headlines Briefing was first published on the DoorstepEU app: