November 30, 2017
Please tell us there is another way than fudging the border
All sides are intensifying efforts to find a solution for the border with Northern Ireland after Brexit, ahead of a meeting between Theresa May and Jean Claude Junker early next week. The Irish Times reports that there had been progress, as the language is more acceptable to the Irish, but there is still a distance to cover from the Irish perspective. The Irish are seeking a clear commitment from the British that there will be no change to the Border arrangements. Their proposal is for the UK to assure "regulatory equivalence" between the EU and the UK. But the British do not want to be compromised ahead of negotiations for a trade deal. Northern Ireland will leave the single market and the customs union with the UK, this is their position. But they are working with the EU to find a way forward.
Britain and the EU have already agreed joint principles on the common travel area and the Belfast agreement, which both sides agree must be respected in its entirety. This could form the basis for an agreement on the future of the border, with both sides acknowledging that adhering to the agreement means maintaining cross-border relations essentially as they are today.
We also note that Sinn Féin's former minister Chris Hazzard warned yesterday that not only violent protests but also civil disobedience could be the result of a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. But a hard border in theory needs not to be a hard border in practice, as pointed out by Newton Emerson. Former PM Bertie Ahern suggested that a hard border does not necessarily have to be enforced. Where there could be no technical solutions for border control, just turn a blind eye to it. This way you can fudge the border. We don't believe that a muddling-through strategy of deliberate non-enforcement is a way forward. There need to be an agreement in principle for it to be trusted.