ERG’s Post-Brexit Irish Border Solution – As We Said, Just Lie


The European Research Group – that’s the realist end of the Conservative Party – has just released its paper on how to deal with the Irish border question post-Brexit. The solution is as we’ve been saying for some time now, do nothing and lie about it. Not that that’s quite how they put it but it is what is meant.

Guido has the full paper:

The checks that are required post-Brexit to retain the integrity of the EU Single Market and Customs Union include customs declarations, declarations of origin, sanitary and phytosanitary checks and checks on product compliance. Cross-border trade on the island of Ireland is mostly comprised of regular shipments of the same goods. This repetitive trade is well suited to established technical solutions and simplified customs procedures already available in the Union Customs Code. Larger companies may take advantage of trusted trader-type schemes.

This status provides assurance of a high degree of compliance and hence entitles the bearer to simplified procedures For all companies, the requirements for additional declarations can be incorporated into the existing system used for VAT returns. Licensed customs brokers can be engaged to support businesses in dealing with rules of origin and customs arrangements. For agricultural products, the Government should agree equivalence of UK and EU regulations and conformity assessment. Since UK and EU standards are identical and will remain identical at the point of departure, determining equivalence after Brexit should be straightforward.

The current smooth movement of agricultural products across the Irish border, without the need for border inspection posts, can be continued by maintaining the island of Ireland as a Common Biosecurity Zone. The proposals set out below can be realised within the existing legal and operational frameworks of the EU and the UK, based on the mutual trust on which regular trade depends. Any risk of fraud or smuggling can be addressed by effective co-operation by authorities on both sides of the border, as already occurs with smuggling of drugs, cigarettes, fuel and alcohol. Such measures can ensure that the trade across the Irish border is maintained.

Effectively, change the headings on the paperwork, do a bit more random checking and then leave well alone.

The European Union has been demanding that there be no hard border as some sort of trump card. While they also demand a strong border against, well, something. The answer to this has always been as we’ve said ourselves:

M. Barnier and others insist that if the regulatory regime is to change at this line on the map then we must have a border, with customs posts, checks and limitations. If we are not to have what we cannot, an impermeable physical barrier to unfettered movement, then the regulatory and customs regime cannot change at Gortnacarrow and again at Clonacore. Effectively, our choice is Brexit or the Bogay Wall, towers, barbed wire and all.

Our answer should be “Yes.” We agree that we are leaving, that we have put in place that hard border. Then we do absolutely nothing above what we already do. People come and go as they wish, carrying what goods they can, and we do nothing. Except, as we already do, we keep an eye on those moving things on an industrial scale and have our little customs and tax chats with them away from that line on the map.

What other people wish to do on their side of that line is entirely up to them. We will do, as we’ve always done when in our right minds, what is useful and beneficial to us. It’s somewhat unfashionable these days to talk of the empire but it’s still true that we had it. Often because we’re rather good at this lying, cheating and dissembling. We should carry on. So, there’s the border, as it is today. And?

Since when have we English been truthful about Ireland or to Frenchmen anyway?