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Readers’ comments: The great border bluff


In response to Chris McGovern: If the boys from Brussels want a hard Irish border, they’ll have to build it themselves

guest wrote:

There was a question on University Challenge over Christmas, I wrote the question and answer down as it was so appropriate to this situation of those trying to stop Brexit: Who said this in 1066 And All That? ‘He spent his declining years trying to guess the answer to the Irish Question; unfortunately whenever he was getting warm the Irish secretly changed the question.’

The answer was Gladstone, but it sounds like what the EU will do to us to stop us ever leaving should we sign the WA.

Talking of which, ‘The top 40 horrors lurking in the small print of Theresa May’s Brexit deal’.

Peter Gardner wrote:

I must admit I was unaware of the hard borders in Northern Irish cities. There are hard borders and there are hard borders. They are not all the same. I was recently in Aqaba, Jordan – over Christmas as it happens. From the rooftop bar of my hotel – great thoughts and perspective are always to be found in such places – I looked out over Jordan, Israel and Egypt. To the south only a few km away was Saudi Arabia. I had, only days before, crossed a truly hard border from Israel into Jordan. On the sea, ships, small boats and pleasure craft went about their business in peace. In the air planes flew happily in and out of Aqaba and Eilat airports. In the streets on both sides of the border, people were going about their daily business and pleasures, secure in the knowledge that the border preserved their peace. You could talk to them and they all said the same. No worries.

Two last points. First the Good Friday Agreement or Belfast Agreement of 10 April 1998. It is commonly asserted that this requires that there be no hard border. It does not. The word ‘border’ appears ten times. None relates to physical borders. All concern cross-border co-operation. The only provisions that could possibly have a bearing on the physical border are those on security. I quote:

1. The participants note that the development of a peaceful environment on the basis of this agreement can and should mean a normalisation of security arrangements and practices.

2. The British Government will make progress towards the objective of as early a return as possible to normal security arrangements in Northern Ireland, consistent with the level of threat and with a published overall strategy, dealing with: (i) the reduction of the numbers and role of the Armed Forces deployed in Northern Ireland to levels compatible with a normal peaceful society; (ii) the removal of security installations; (iii) the removal of emergency powers in Northern Ireland; and (iv) other measures appropriate to and compatible with a normal peaceful society.

The emphasis is on normality. There is nothing abnormal about customs borders with physical infrastructure. Even this is not necessary and has in fact been outlawed by article 10 (2) of the UK’s EU Withdrawal Act:

Nothing in section 8, 9 or 23(1) or (6) of this Act authorises regulations which—
(a)diminish any form of North-South cooperation provided for by the Belfast Agreement (as defined by section 98 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998), or
(b)create or facilitate border arrangements between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland after exit day which feature physical infrastructure, including border posts, or checks and controls, that did not exist before exit day and are not in accordance with an agreement between the United Kingdom and the EU.

That section was a mistake. The EU’s and Irish bluff should have been called long ago. The border was not an issue until Varadkar arrived on the scene.

Final point, and now Barnier and others have had to concede that if UK leaves the EU without a deal, the EU will find ways of not having infrastructure on the border.

The whole issue was dreamed up as a negotiating tactic and, I understand, against David Davis’s advice, Mrs May accepted the backstop. She has found it useful to her as the EU to push back against Leavers in her own party and deny the possibility of an alternative to her disastrous deal.

Time to ditch the backstop. It has served its purpose. It was a bluff and the bluff has been called.

So how about that free trade deal Mr Tusk offered some months ago?

AR DevineWriter wrote:

Culturally, economically, historically and in terms of family and blood ties, the Republic of Ireland’s interests lie with the UK, not with the EU. The belligerent and arrogant posturing of the EUphiles Varadkar and Coveney is not in the interests of the average Irish citizen.

Dogs Brexfast wrote:

The EU wishes to abolish the nation state, but then proposes hard borders.

Says it all.

Mark Forsyth wrote:

I am surprised no one has mentioned the fantastic BBC Ireland comedy called Soft Border Patrol. Perhaps the only non-Project Fear item to come from the BBC, but great for a laugh, and probably the way those on both sides of the border will resolve the situation.

(Editor’s note: The link takes you to the Soft Border Patrol page on BBC iPlayer. It says the full episodes are not available but if you click on ‘Clips’ you will get some very funny scenes.)

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