by Frank Schnittger
Sun Jul 14th, 2019 at 12:25:00 PM EST
Cliff Taylor has written a rather amusing spoof despatch from a British Diplomat in Dublin back to his seniors in Whitehall - no doubt modelled on Sir Kim Darroch despatches from Washington. In general it seems an accurate take on the state of "no deal" Brexit contingency planning in Ireland, but the over-riding impression is one of confusion as to what the Irish are really up to.
As usual, given my generous nature, and in the spirit of international cooperation, I have offered to fill in the gaps in his understanding in the comments below..
More amusing still would be a spoof Irish ambassadors report from London as to what a Boris administration plans to do. Something about showing the Irish a flash of cold steel as Boris tells them who's who and what's what...
But perhaps I can fill in some of the gaps in Cliff Taylor's ambassadorial report:
Firstly, the Irish will procrastinate and delay and do nothing as no deal approaches and even after it has happened. The end objective being to await the formation of a UK government no longer dependent on DUP support. That could take years, or it could take weeks, but whatever: the situation is desperate but not serious. Any inaction will be explained to all and sundry (including the Commission) on the basis that talks are ongoing, the current situation is temporary, and there is no need to spend huge money and political capital on problems that will soon go away. Churchill referred to this strategy as "Masterly inactivity". Napoleon said "never interrupt your enemy while he is busy making a mistake".
Secondly, Irish exports to the UK will remain largely unaffected as the UK has said it will not impose border controls. If controls ARE imposed at Holyhead etc., Irish exports will be re-directed via Belfast, and if necessary re-loaded and re-invoiced via NI companies to avoid inspection in Belfast. Meanwhile UK exports to Ireland will be confiscated on discovery unless done by trusted traders using on-line pre-clearance customs forms. The legendary inefficiency of the Gardaí will ensure this causes minimum inconvenience for a time, although a few seizures will be given maximum publicity to give the appearance of strict enforcement. The Irish economy will therefore be surprisingly unaffected, reducing pressure on the government to actually do anything.
No doubt there will be difficulties in obtaining planning permission for any new customs infrastructure diplomatically located some distance from the border and concerned citizens will issue High Court injunctions and Supreme Court challenges against any infrastructural developments or rules and regulations they deem in contravention of the Good Friday Agreement or the European Charter of Fundamental Rights protections on the freedom of smugglers to do as they please. The Irish Judicial system can be devilishly slow on reaching conclusions on matters of public interest...
Meanwhile the clock is ticking on the lifetime of the current UK Parliament and Boris' government, and the authorities in Calais or Rotterdam are unlikely to be anything like as accommodating to UK exports stuck in customs for want to the proper paperwork and tariffs duly paid. Ireland will follow suit at Irish ports for any UK exports trying to sneak into the EU26 via Irish ports, and unless a consignment is duly accompanied by a customs declaration by a Trusted trader, it will be subject to inspection. There may not be many British exports that have profit margins wide enough to warrant shipping via Ireland, but those that have will be targetted for special attention.
Of course, all of this will be accompanied by loud complaints in the British media to the effect that while the UK has maintained open borders, the EU most definitely has not. In vain customs experts will try to explain that under WTO "most favoured nation status" rules, the EU has no choice but to impose controls, unless it is prepared to open the floodgates for produce from all over the world on the same basis. Remarkably the Leave case for Brexit has been based on a desire for "Free Trade" by a "Global Britain" without any recognition that, absent the Single Market or a FTA, there is no such thing as free trade in the world...
All attempts by the UK to negotiate piecemeal with individual countries like Ireland on border arrangements or for special treatment for individual sectors like aviation will be met by a blank refusal by the EU to even open substantive discussions until and unless "outstanding matters" such as the £39 Billion payment, the rights of EU citizens in the UK and, yes, that cursed Irish border issue are addressed first.
David Trimble, former Unionist leader once admitted that the focus on creating a protestant state for a protestant people in N. Ireland had led to it becoming "a cold house for Irish Catholics and Nationalists". The DUP may find that, in its attempts to extricate itself from the shambles of a post No Deal Brexit, the UK will become an increasingly cold place for Northern Ireland unionists...
Either way, the Irish government will seek to wait this one out, Commission pressures to demonstrate it is enforcing all Single Market rules notwithstanding. But as Cliff Taylor asks in his rather plaintive (fake) missive to his Whitehall handlers: "But for as long as our government relies on the DUP, it [a customs border down the Irish sea] doesn't look likely to happen. Has anyone over there got any other ideas?"