Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

Now you see it, now you don't

by Frank Schnittger Wed Aug 16th, 2017 at 01:36:29 PM EST

The UK's Brexit secretary David Davis Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Leo Varadker's pre-emptive shot across the bows appears to have had the desired effect of scaring the British off any notions of re-imposing border controls on the island of Ireland. However in forcing the UK to discard discredited notions of a frictionless tech border he has done no more than inspire another bout of "having our cake and eating it" thinking on the part of the UK Government. Somehow the UK is going to leave the EU, Single Market and Custom's Union without imposing any sort of border controls within Ireland at all at all...

Clearly, the UK government wants to keep the Irish Government on side while also keeping the DUP sweet.  The result is that it is effectively seeking to cast the EU in the role of the bad boy seeking to re-impose hard border controls within Ireland. Trusted trader status for Irish companies and exemptions for small cross border traders may seem like music to the ears of business and political leaders, North and south, but why should the rest of the EU tolerate it?

Britain rules out Irish Sea border but wants no customs posts in Ireland

The UK has explicitly ruled out any Brexit deal that would involve a border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK in a key position paper on its exit from the European Union.

In doing so, the UK's negotiating paper, published on Wednesday, again makes clear that the United Kingdom is not prepared to explore the possibility of treating Northern Ireland as a separate entity or for it to remain part of the customs union as some politicians North and South have urged.

"The UK has been clear that avoiding a return to a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland is one of our top priorities, but the answer on how to achieve this cannot be to impose a customs border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain and we believe our position on this is widely shared", the document says.

Confounding speculation that the UK would advocate CCTV cameras or number plate recognition systems as part of its vision for a frictionless Border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, the new position paper has effectively recommended no change to the current arrangements. It has also proposed a future customs arrangement which would see 80 per cent of businesses on the island entirely exempt from any new tariffs post-Brexit.

The exemption would apply to small and medium-sized enterprises involved in localised cross-border trade. In respect of larger companies engaged in international trade, the British government paper proposes they could adhere to any new customs regime by completing retrospective declarations either online or at their premises.

Officials concede that the proposals could be open to fraud -- with Great Britain or continental European-based companies using Irish business counterparts to avoid tariffs -- but they believe those risks can be managed effectively.

Undoubtedly, the EU Commission will be sympathetic to Ireland's concerns given that the Irish economy is the most exposed to the fall-out from a hard Brexit, and the consequences of a relapse into Northern Ireland's Troubled past occasioned by a hard border are too horrific to contemplate. The EU has also been flexible in agreeing anomalous arrangements where the size of the market concerned is not material in the context of the EU economy as a whole. The size of the N. Ireland economy (€39.873 billion (PPP)) is less that 0.2% of the size of the EU economy.  Is that small enough to be immaterial?

The big issue for the EU will be to prevent N. Ireland becoming a back channel for EU/UK trade and undeclared third country goods avoiding whatever tariffs, quality and customs controls come into force post Brexit. That will require, at a minimum, customs controls at Irish air and sea ports to establish whether Irish imports and exports are destined for the UK or originate from the UK or third countries.

That in turn will require a functioning "Certificate of Origin" system involving trusted economic operators providing the relevant documentation online and an audit and inspection regime capable of ensuring widespread compliance. Such a system is already in operation for third country trade, but would have to be expanded and upgraded substantially if UK/EU trade were to be included.

As both Ireland and the UK are outside the Schengen Area, existing immigration/passport controls would be sufficient to maintain both the Ireland UK Common Travel Area and our obligations to the EU/UK to control third party immigration. However what if EU citizens were to use Ireland as a back channel to enter the UK?  Ireland can hardly be expected to implement immigration controls against EU citizens on behalf of the UK.

The bottom line is that if the UK wants to restrict EU immigration into the UK, it will have to implement some form of immigration controls with respect to travel from Ireland. That would be in breach of the Common Travel area unless implemented at (say) places of work in the UK and not as part of entry/exit procedures.  No doubt the UK authorities have thought all of that through...

It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the UK has deliberately adopted a negotiating position which blithely ignores many of the practical difficulties it will give rise to in the hope that the EU will cop the blame for insisting on controls which will prove extremely unpopular in Ireland. Instead of blaming Brexit, we are to re-direct our complaints to the Commission. Now where have we seen those tactics before?

However the UK government negotiating document will also fulfil another important purpose: it will keep the DUP off their back by maintaining the fiction that a "frictionless" border will be possible in Ireland post Brexit. Don't expect the UK government to change their stance until such time as the DUP's parliamentary support is no longer required. At that stage the DUP will be sold down the river like any ally who has outlived their usefulness. Perfidious Albion Rexit.

Frank, I'm not sure I agree with the following:

The bottom line is that if the UK wants to restrict EU immigration into the UK, it will have to implement some form of immigration controls with respect to travel from Ireland. That would be in breach of the Common Travel area unless implemented at (say) places of work in the UK and not as part of entry/exit procedures.  No doubt the UK authorities have thought all of that through...

As far as I know (and please correct me if I'm wrong) you already have to go through border control when entering Ireland (at least in Dublin Airport). In the UK airports, there is a CTA channel, but not in the Irish airports. There definitely used to be such a channel (I remember being indignant the first time I was forced through Passport control when flying from Galway to Dublin a decade ago; I didn't have ID on me so the Garda shrugged and sent me on my way :-) (he did ask for my boarding card - fortunately, I hadn't dropped it).

I guess you mean that this would need to be implemented also in the sea ports...

by piobar on Wed Aug 16th, 2017 at 02:09:22 PM EST
In practice you need a passport flying to/from an Irish airport as an ID document because the Irish Government doesn't issue any lesser ID documents  (other than driving licences) and airlines such as Ryanair insist on them even if they are not technically, legally required between Ireland and the UK. Theoretically, you can be asked for your Irish passport to prove you are entitled to avail of the CTA (Common Travel Area) for which you don't need a passport! I suspect this requirement also prevents airports having to quarantine or separate passengers from UK as opposed to EU airports and simplifies passenger handling more generally. As you say, Irish sea ferries don't impose a similar requirement and there are no controls with N. Ireland and onward..

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Aug 16th, 2017 at 02:28:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Aer Lingus does not so insist, for example.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Aug 16th, 2017 at 02:40:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ah yes, but the no CTA channel is part of the reaction to Irish immigration realising they couldn't just single out dark skinned people any more, so they simply forgot to include it when they redid the airport.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Aug 16th, 2017 at 02:39:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Given both Ireland and UK are both outside Schengen, passports between Ireland/EU and UK/EU were always required in any case, and the EU won't be overly concerned about Ireland/UK travel for Irish people as the CTA is not an EU treaty.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Aug 16th, 2017 at 03:02:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You can have as many favoured traders as you want. The problem is the place-of-origin rules for goods

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Aug 16th, 2017 at 05:17:57 PM EST
The thing that upsets me is the sheer incoherence of the UK's position. It's embarrassing.

Even if it is, as you say, a way to push blame for the inevitable debacle back on the EU, the idea that the UK is planning for disaster is hardly the sign of adults in control.

I. Hate. This.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Aug 16th, 2017 at 05:22:46 PM EST
From a negotiating process point of view, it is an entirely rational approach:

  1. Keep the DUP on board by ruling out controls between N. Ireland and Britain

  2. Keep the Irish government on Board by ruling out Irish land border controls.

  3. Use Ireland's dependence on UK trade to undermine the EU negotiating position in general

  4. Blame busybody meddling Brussels bureaucrats for causing complications and inhibiting "free trade"

  5. The practicalities are for the little people.  Political visionaries don't do detail.

  6. Problem solved

  7. Next!

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Aug 16th, 2017 at 06:23:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, you can see in their shifty flushed faces that that's exactly the squalid calculation they're spinning.

I. Hate. Them.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Aug 16th, 2017 at 06:36:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think 3 needs expanded.  This position isn't just to create a wedge issue between the Republic and the EU but to convince the Republic "there is no alternative" to the "sensible" decision of Eirexit.
by rifek on Thu Aug 17th, 2017 at 01:25:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Support for EU membership in Ireland has never been higher, at 88% overall, and 99% among students. Brexit has reminded everyone of the benefits of the EU that are all too easily taken for granted. Every day, as the clusterf*ck that is Brexit is further revealed, that number is likely to grow, not diminish.

Schadenfreude doesn't quite capture the sense of ones former colonial masters and betters getting their comeuppance... It's more like a role reversal with the UK becoming the supplicant begging the master not to go too hard on them.  Karma if you wish, but all to many Irish have historical memories of the position being reversed.

So there will be no gloating, instead a genuine fellow feeling and willingness to help.  But at the moment we can do nothing. The UK is determined to do this all by itself, and delusions of Irexit only demonstrate how out of touch Brexiteers are.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Aug 17th, 2017 at 03:44:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You know that, and I know that, and anyone with two brain cells to rub together knows that,  but UK Brexit strategy is being set by carnival barkers and deludinoids.
by rifek on Fri Aug 18th, 2017 at 01:18:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Nightmarish administrative task lies at heart of Brexit plan
While the principle of avoiding any physical border infrastructure between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland is positive, it is very difficult to see how this could operate in practice.

In suggesting as they did on Tuesday that a new "customs partnership", which would essentially see the UK continuing to control the trade flows across the union's external borders in accordance with EU rules, while applying different rules to goods destined only to the UK market, the UK has - in theory - come up with an option that would obviate the need for an internal border in Ireland.

But the plan is unprecedented internationally, highly complex, requiring nightmarish administrative provisions for both business and government, and most unlikely to fill Ireland's EU partners with confidence that their external borders would be secure. And the faith expressed by Britain's Brexit Minister David Davies in a technological alternative to border controls is most definitely not shared in Dublin.

Customs experts say that such measures can easily police over 90 per cent of trade, but would be completely unable to cope with the crucial illegal trade that is already a feature of the Border. In suggesting that the first-phase withdrawal talks currently under way could begin to reach political agreement on the need for an infrastructure-free Border, the UK also appears to be trying to bounce negotiators into discussions on trade which the EU insists can only begin once sufficient progress on withdrawal is made.

UK negotiators will probably be told they are putting the cart before the horse. Agricultural trade poses particular problems. The EU insists that all animal and food products crossing from third countries must meet its extensive phytosanitary and sanitary standards. Border checks are the means for monitoring such standards.

The UK paper suggests that it will be willing to meet such standards on an "ongoing" basis, but such a commitment would seriously inhibit it from doing agricultural trade agreements with countries like the US where, for example, GM crops are permitted. That commitment would appear to fly in the face of its trade stance.

In addition, the paper is extremely vague about how the UK in the context of the Common Travel Area intends to police potential immigration, either of EU or third country workers, coming in through the "backdoor" of the Republic. British officials suggest that policing illegal migration is not really a border control issue, but can be better done in controlling access to jobs once migrants have entered.

However, such an argument will go down extremely poorly with the Brexit fanatics on the Tory backbenches for whom border controls were and remain a central imperative of Brexit.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Aug 16th, 2017 at 07:22:59 PM EST
There is a new computerized UK customs system designed pre-referendum and coincidentally scheduled to go live in March 2019 although it was, of course, originally sized to deal with third party trade only. Presumably it will use online forms submission and automated clearance document generation with barcode/transducer technology to facilitate the occasional spot check of goods vs. documentation and enable virtually automated clearance for all goods.

I have some (painful) experience of being the end-user acceptance testing manager for very large global enterprise wide MRP systems for multiple markets/languages/currencies and suffice to say that this is one project I would be happy not to be involved with. (Last time around the Director of IT told me he valued my project management skills so highly that it didn't matter that I had no prior experience of the business processes being automated, the technology being used, the IT teams doing the design/implementation, or the management which had signed off on the design.)

Needless to say everything went swimmingly, except that production chaos ensued once the system went live because the business managers had signed off on system designs which bore little relationship to the reality of how the underlying production/distribution processes actually operated. The failure was most acute in the UK.  Apparently senior UK business managers don't do detail. Promotion is based on selling conceptual, strategic, transformational systems which run best on Powerpoint..

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Aug 16th, 2017 at 07:28:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
...the business managers had signed off on system designs which bore little relationship to the reality of how the underlying production/distribution processes actually operated


And the IT rep who sold the system knew bugger-all about IT.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Thu Aug 17th, 2017 at 01:20:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That was all part of a global e-transformation project that could only be realised by implementing a single (brand) SAP system which standardised and automated most core business processes.  The decision was made by Corporate HQ Board without reference to operating units never mind their IT functions. SAP don't sell IT, they sell business transformation (and the enforcement of centralised HQ control) obviating the need for troublesome (limited imagination) middle management in most cases and empowering strategic managers who don't do detail anyway... In fact if it's too complicated to explain quickly, its obviously in need of simplification, standardisation, and centralised leadership!

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Aug 17th, 2017 at 09:51:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The BBC estimate that there are 110 million border crossings each year - and that doesn't include many unmonitored crossing points.  Most of these crossings are by private cars.

Approximately a quarter to a third of N. Ireland's imports and exports are to/from the Republic. Many company's supply chains cross the border many times - e.g. Guinness and Baileys and lots of smaller businesses along the border. Many towns, farms and private homes straddle the border, and some roads cross it several times.

It would be ironic if we recreated the border on the 70th. anniversary of the traumatic creation of the India Pakistan border which resulted in the death and displacement of millions of people.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Aug 16th, 2017 at 10:03:49 PM EST
To the contrary, the conundrum in uniting peoples on the island called Ireland that was created by the UK gov't is consistent, congruent with UK gov't predatory colonizing history the world over.

There are many more (and more recent) anniversaries of "displacement" since 1700 C.E. you'll likely not recall, wistfully. Such as Balfour and Sykes-Picot "agreements", Treaty of Nanking and Diego Garcia deportation in 1971,

Past is present, and Varadkar can't lead people who identify themselves as British citizens.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Thu Aug 17th, 2017 at 11:17:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Mr Coveney said the immediate focus for the coming rounds of negotiations remained on advancing issues relating to Ireland, along with citizens' rights and the question of a financial settlement between the EU and UK.

unless public discourse wallows, as Anglo-merican press would have it, in the issue, which gov't possesses the colony named Northern Ireland. UK, IR, or EU?

Really, it's about time to tack.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Thu Aug 17th, 2017 at 11:27:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Identity cards are coming for us all
Conventions of law, bureaucracy and common decency suggest that if anyone is going to be asked for their papers, everyone must be - and that can already be observed.

Even before the EU referendum, the UK Home Office was delegating immigration checks to employers and landlords, while a debate had begun on asking for proof of citizenship in hospitals.

Where such checks have been introduced, a white face and a British or Irish accent has, of course, not been formal grounds for exemption.

What this is building towards is an electronic "everywhere" Border - based not so much on keeping certain people out as on making life difficult if they get in. It concedes that conventional frontiers are already overwhelmed and aims to turn every interaction with the state into a de facto immigration inspection.

A total of 16 million British people do not have a passport and the remainder do not want to carry theirs around at all times. As inspection requirements grow, demand for a national identity card will increase - and the unique position of the Irish will have to be accommodated.

We have been here before. Labour entered government in 1997 with a manifesto pledge against identity cards but changed its mind after 9/11, initially on security grounds, then later to combat benefit fraud and illegal immigration.

The first cards were issued in 2008, linked to a biometric database. Registration was compulsory for some non-EU foreign residents from the outset and was to be forced on everyone else in due course. The Tories scrapped the scheme immediately upon returning to office in 2010 - delightfully, the decision was announced by then home secretary Theresa May, following a prominent campaign against the "database state" by Tory MP David Davis, now her Brexit secretary.

Yet even to get this far, the scheme had to make significant compromises for Ireland.

The union flag was omitted from cards to avoid offending nationalists in Northern Ireland.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Aug 17th, 2017 at 10:21:59 AM EST
re: international flow of people

Plans for a £3,000 "security bond" for some "high risk" overseas visitors to the UK are to be abandoned, the Home Office has confirmed. 2013

< wipes tears >

UK gov't may be compelled to ah revisit this strategy at their own invisible ports on the mainland, yanno, should Ireland's gov't be unable to master the invisible border of the colony.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Thu Aug 17th, 2017 at 11:57:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The European Commission hasn't so much dismissed the content of the UK paper as refused to engage with it until the initial three topics for negotiations have been progressed, seeing the paper as attempting leapfrog the first phase into the substance of the trade negotiations the UK so dearly wants to address as a matter of priority.

European Commission pours cold water on UK's Brexit paper on North

The European Commission has poured cold water on the UK's Brexit negotiating paper on Northern Ireland by reminding it that, in the words of the EU's chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, "frictionless trade is not possible outside the single market and customs union".

The idea of leaving both the single market and customs union but of maintaining an "infrastructure-free" Border at Newry was a central thrust of the UK paper published on Wednesday, but it remains in the eyes of both Irish and EU officials an unrealistic expectation.

In its brief response to the British paper, a spokesman for the commission said that such trade issues would only be a matter for the second phase of negotiations once "sufficient progress" had been made on the withdrawal issues in the ongoing phase-one discussions.

However the Commission will also be wary of being seen as offering the Irish a less advantageous position than the UK.  In due course, I would expect it to respond with an offer of retaining Northern Ireland within the customs Union and the Single Market, an offer which would be unacceptable to the DUP as it would entail moving the EU/UK border into the Irish Sea.

The UK cannot be seen as accepting such an offer without losing the support of the DUP although I suspect London couldn't care less... Thus I expect the resolution of the matter to be one of the very last things to be agreed if the negotiations do reach ab agreement.

By then, I would expect the Tory government to be resigned to losing the support of a majority in Parliament anyway - some hard line Brexiteers and the DUP will jump ship when they see the content of the proposed deal. Labour will also reject a "Tory deal" which is obviously less advantageous than the status quo.

May will then go to the country, just before the March 2019 deadline, "to give the nation the choice" of a no deal or European Commission deal Brexit. It is almost impossible to predict which she will campaign for - the deal negotiated by her Brexiteer Ministers or a no deal Brexit, but I suspect the latter on the grounds that the obduracy of the Brussels bureaucrats and the will of Parliament has given her no choice.

Labour will campaign on achieving an extension of the A50 period and re-opening negotiations with a different set of priorities and demands. The Tories will scoff at the "unrealism" of the Labour demands which will be greeted with a weary shrug an a distinct lack of enthusiasm by the EU Council.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Aug 18th, 2017 at 08:48:33 AM EST
If May loses the DUP's support, I guess it will be a general election. With Labour running on re-negotiation, Lib-dems on retracting A50, question is if anyone will be running on the negotiated result or if it's just a deliberate waste of time.
by fjallstrom on Fri Aug 18th, 2017 at 11:36:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I am leaning more and more to the view that the UK is only going through the motions of negotiating a deal with Brussels with an expectation that whatever they negotiate will leave a majority of Parliament unhappy with the outcome - the DUP and Hard core Brexiteers because of the compromises it contains, and most of the rest because the outcome is clearly less advantageous than the status quo.

The Tories would far rather negotiate with their "equals" - Merkel and Macron - in any case, rather than with some hated Bureaucrats in Brussels.  So their playbook will read: reject bad deal offered by Brussels, go to the country offering no deal but with a promise to negotiate a better one with Merkel afterwards, all the while ridiculing Labour for believing Brussels will ever offer a better deal.

In the meantime Brussels will fold its arms and patiently await the outcome of the election. If the Tories win, it's a no deal Brexit in March 2019, and very little prospect of any substantial deal afterwards - other than possibly an extension of "Open Skies" and Interpol cooperation.

If Labour win (more likely), the Commission will politely await their proposals for a different kind of deal, and perhaps be surprised that the Labour proposals include many ideas they are happy to explore further. But whether the European Council would be prepared to unanimously offer an extension of the A50 period is anyone's guess.  Mine would be a very limited extension, perhaps 3-6 months, after which time a new Brexit deal will be agreed - one which both the Commission and mainstream opinion in the UK are much happier with.

The DUP will be history, Northern Ireland (and perhaps the whole of the UK) will remain in the Single Market and Customs Union, regulatory equivalence will be agreed thus limiting non-tariff barriers, and little will change except that the UK will have to abide by EU regulations while having little influence on their ongoing development.  An annual fee for market access will be agreed at a level slightly less than the current net UK contribution to the EU together with a relatively small once off contribution.  

The UK will be free to pursue an independent foreign policy (as a vassal of the US) but not with an independent trade deal negotiating role. Everyone will agree the deal is better than what the Tories negotiated, but worse than the status quo. But with the A50 period having elapsed, agreement is in the gift of every single EU27 member and so most will be happy that at least some benefits have been salvaged.  The UK will deliberately diverge from EU foreign policy to emphasize its new found Sovereign independence and no one else will give a damn.

And everyone in the EU will breath a sigh of relief that the whole sorry fiasco of UK EU membership has finally ended.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Aug 18th, 2017 at 01:17:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
that sequence of events makes an awful lot of sense, except that there is no sense whatsoever in the brexit negotiations from the UK and so it will not happen.

I suspect that the weak link is that May will go to the country before the A50 process is over. I guarantee that will never happen. The only way they're going for an election within the next 4 years is if they lose a vote of confidence, which means that the DUP ust abandon them. And for that to happen, the Tories would have to negotiate the Customs union/EU border to Belfast. Which, being the only solution that can possibly work, is politically impossible.

Ireland was completely ignored during the brexit campaign, but I think it is the reef on which it might sink

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Sun Aug 20th, 2017 at 04:57:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I can't see how May can survive as the A50 process comes to an end. Either she negotiates a deal which hard Brexiteers will hate causing them to oppose it in Parliament leading to her defeat, (No deal is better than a bad deal!), Or she will reject the outcome of negotiations and lose the support of a handful of Tories fearful of a cliff edge Brexit and who will argue (rightly) that the referendum campaign never gave anyone a mandate for a no-deal Brexit.

From an EU perspective, no one owes May anything. She hasn't built a friendly relationship with anyone. So why would they give her a good deal she will simply crow over and claim that she has her cake and is eating it at the hapless EU's expense? This is now a zero sum game, and the issue is to ensure the other side loses more. And getting an A50 extension is a non-starter unless a deal is very close or unless an election causes the EU to pause to see what any new government will do.

So the EU will play hardball and support Ireland's claim not to have customs controls on the Border (for a limited period - pending implementation) in compensation for throwing it to the wolves otherwise.  There will be a "double doors" customs solution with Irish Customs at air and sea ports charged with implementing tariffs for any goods originating in the UK. Private or small business cross border trade within Ireland will be ignored and only large businesses charged with implementing despatch and receipt controls on any cross-border traffic.

This will help deal with internal production/supply chain issues where the same goods can cross the border several times - allowing those businesses to net off goods going one way on the way back. VAT returns and and BEPS require similar system controls. It could mean that agricultural produce like milk could travel to the North for further processing into butter/cheese/Baileys and onward despatch to Britain. Whether the UK will chose to control that trade is their business (opposed by the DUP!), but any food coming into Ireland via the North will be controlled by Certificate of origin controls - so US genetically modified produce will not be allowed onto the shop shelves. Most Irish food is now traceable to farm level for disease/quality control purposes in any case.

Five Supermarket chains dominate almost all Irish food retailing - Supervalue/Centra (Musgraves), Dunnes Stores, Tesco, Aldi and Lidl. They are already required to label food with country of origin etc. It should be relatively easy for Customs to ensure any non-EU food coming in via N. Ireland has paid the appropriate tariff by having a customs officer stationed at their distribution centres. They already have customs officers stationed within the fermentation process in Guinness.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Aug 20th, 2017 at 07:03:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Fintan O'Toole: UK government's border proposals for Ireland are absurd
The British government has a lot of seducing to do. By October, it has to have persuaded all the EU member states that "sufficient progress" has been made on the three big preliminary issues: the monetary divorce bill; the mutual rights of British citizens living in the EU and vice versa; and Ireland. To put this more bluntly, if the Irish government is not persuaded that Britain has a serious plan for the avoidance of a hard border on what will be its only land frontier with the European Union, the talks on a post-Brexit final status are going nowhere. This reality seems to have dawned at last - hence a position paper that could not be more emollient if it came dripping with honey.

But to understand how this seems to the Irish government and to most people on the island, imagine you are in a decent job. It is reasonably paid, apparently secure and the working environment is quite amicable. Your neighbour, who you like but do not quite trust (there's a bit of history there) comes to you with a proposition. She's establishing an extremely risky start-up venture with a high probability of catastrophic failure. Will you join her? Well, you ask, what are the possible rewards? Ah, she says, if - against the odds - everything goes splendidly, you'll get the same pay and conditions you have now.


As with the whole Brexit project, the proposals for Ireland are credible only if you accept two mutually incompatible propositions: a) The UK is creating the biggest political and economic revolution since 1973; b) pretty much everything will stay the same. It fully concedes that the changes most of us fear from Brexit - the reimposition of a political and economic border and the reversal of so much of the progress made since the Good Friday agreement of 1998 - would be terrible. Indeed, it goes even further and characterises these changes as unacceptable. But it then goes on to suggest, in effect, that these utterly unacceptable things will not happen only if the EU gives the UK all the benefits of the customs union and the single market with none of the costs or restrictions.

The one really bold move in the paper is its rejection of the technological utopianism of the more enthusiastic Brexiteers, especially in the Democratic Unionist party. The commitment to "avoid any physical border infrastructure" means that there can be no CCTV cameras or registration-plate recognition systems. Magical machines are not going to take the place of human customs officers.

This is a welcome concession to reality, but it is predicated on an even bigger unreality: the assumption that the EU will agree to something quite extraordinary: that a 500km external EU border with more than 200 crossing points will be effectively unpoliced. People and goods will pass over it without let or hindrance. Smugglers, people traffickers and terrorists will go on their merry way unmolested. Small companies will not have to do customs checks at all; large ones will operate a charming honour system in which they retrospectively declare the goods they have moved and pay their duties.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Aug 19th, 2017 at 10:24:48 AM EST
Purely intra-Ireland trade across the border is miniscule as a proportion of total EU trade if one discounts the trade by a few large firms like Diageo, Tesco, and big pharma.  These are already heavily policed and can pay any net tariffs due much like their VAT returns. OECD BEPS (Base erosion and profit shifting) proposals will require similar accounting in any case.

The remaining small firm and private individual trade can be safely ignored.  It is insignificant in EU terms and will represent some compensation for the loss of trade and inconvenience Brexit will create in other areas.  In practice, if not in theory, the customs border will be moved into the Irish sea.

Customs controls at Irish ports/airports will have to ensure that any Irish imports/exports are not destined for or originate from the UK using existing Certificate of Origin and end customer invoicing systems. This will result in a lot of additional work for Irish customs, but the additional cost of routing goods for the UK market through Ireland should limit such trade in any case.

The UK will be free to implement its own customs and immigration controls wherever it wants within it's own territory, and will quickly find that this is most practically done at N. Ireland air and sea ports - whatever the DUP might say.

The EU response to the UK proposals should therefore be to propose that N. Ireland, which didn't vote for Brexit, and which under the Good Friday Agreement is required to obtain a majority within Northern Ireland for major constitutional change, should remain within the Customs Union and Single Market thus moving the customs border (but not sovereign border) into the Irish sea..  

The DUP will freak out, but will be sold down the river once its votes in Westminster are no longer required. It cannot be otherwise, if Ireland is not to veto any post Brexit deal. If that means waiting until after the next Westminster elections, then so be it.  The EU can afford to wait. The UK less so.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Aug 19th, 2017 at 11:03:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
UK's Brexit trade stance is madness without method
The UK's first Brexit position paper, on the customs union, amounted to an exploration of the use of definite and indefinite articles. The UK wants to leave the customs union only to remain a member of a customs union.

The difference is easy to spot: everything stays exactly the same apart from the way in which the new customs union gives Liam Fox, the UK trade secretary, something to do, namely to negotiate trade deals with other countries - something that will be permitted by a customs union but is against the law in the customs union.

This is definitely madness without method. Why would the European Union agree to this?


A similar theme emerges in the paper that grapples with the Border. Again, the British position is that nothing will change on the day of Brexit: the Border, from their perspective, will remain exactly as it is today with complete freedom of movement of both goods and people.

This approach allows the British to claim that if anything goes wrong, it won't be their fault. Any problem at the Border will be the consequence of Brussels and Dublin putting up obstacles.

It would be a mistake to dismiss this as an empty threat. Just imagine the day after Brexit - particularly the rock-hard variety, the one that involves the UK crashing out without a deal. Imagine the British living up to their promise: no border controls, no customs checks, no change at all.

As a matter of EU law, all of the infrastructure necessary to police this new customs frontier between the EU and the rest of the world would have to be placed on the Irish side of the Border.

Think about that for a second and appreciate the ironies, the discomfort and the expense. All of the border checks inside the Republic. Nothing on the UK side.

Somebody in Whitehall is willing to bet that the Government will put pressure on Brussels to compromise, to do anything to avoid this outcome. Have the British finally discovered some negotiating leverage?

The answer is no. The Irish Government will insist on implementing customs controls where it already has the infrastructure - at air and sea ports. Trade within the island of Ireland by private individuals and small businesses will essentially proceed unhindered. The big players - Guinness, Baileys, Tesco et al will have to declare their imports as they do their Vat returns - and pay tariffs accordingly.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Aug 20th, 2017 at 09:31:41 PM EST
I'm beginning to think we need acut out and keep guide of what is poosible.

If you leave the ECJ, what things are no longer possible?

If we leave the Customs union, etc etc

Cos I find I get confused as to where the govt are coming from even given the massive ignorance and cntradiction going on

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Aug 23rd, 2017 at 06:35:33 PM EST
May's hard line on ECJ made almost everything impossible. Softening that makes many things possible and is a prerequisite to damage minimisation.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Aug 23rd, 2017 at 07:50:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Major trade deals often provide for an arbitration court made up of Judges nominated by both sides to deal with disputes.  But that is for trade disputes.

That doesn't include dealing with the rights of EU citizens in the UK for example, although I suppose a compromise is possible whereby rights accrued before the date of Brexit are dealt with by the ECJ, and subsequently all is dealt with by UK judges.

But I remain to be convinced that a trade deal is possible in the near term - expectations are too far apart.  What we must remember is that any concessions the EU makes will form the basis for all future exit negotiations and trade deals, so the EU will be extremely reluctant to set precedents others may seek to build on.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Aug 23rd, 2017 at 10:40:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Go to: [ European Tribune Homepage : Top of page : Top of comments ]