Under the government's latest proposals we in Northern Ireland are to be an experiment, with all the worst-case scenarios of Brexit rolled into oneby Sarah Creighton / October 2, 2019 / Leave a comment
Having grown up in Belfast, my memories of the border during the Troubles are far and few between. I remember a car trip to Dublin as a child, my parents having a blazing argument in the front seats. A checkpoint interrupted them. Mid-screaming match, my parents barely speaking, we all had to get out of our car while somebody—a solider, probably—checked under the bonnet.
On September 20, I attended the Centre for Cross Border Studies 20th Anniversary Conference. The Centre, established the year after Good Friday Agreement, aims to promote and support cross border co-operation. The Centre runs “Border People,” a “central access point for cross border mobility information on the Island of Ireland.” Border People has been running since 2001, and now has a special “Brexit hub” where people can get guidance on citizenship, education and employment.
The Irish Border is at the heart of Brexit. It isn’t a game, although the events of the past few days would make you wonder.
On September 30, RTÉ’s Tony Connolly reported that the British Government had finally come forward with an alternative to the Backstop. The alleged plans apparently involved “customs clearance centres” in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, all located 5-10 minutes away from the border.
Connolly’s report sparked both mirth and anger. Customs centres located close to the border would be viewed as “border infrastructure,” something the UK Government under Theresa May had pledged to avoid in the 2017 Joint Report with the European Commission.
In an interview with the BBC’s Nick Robinson on October 1, however, Boris Johnson said Connolly’s report was “not quite right.” The Government wasn’t proposing customs posts close to the border, he said, but added that checks would have to take place somewhere. Worryingly, in a later interview with Laura Kuenssberg, he repeated a similar line.
Why was Johnson being so vague? We got our answer this morning. According to the Daily Telegraph, the Prime Minister is proposing “two borders, for four years.” Northern Ireland will remain aligned to the EU rules on agriculture and industrial goods during that period. At the same time, it will remain aligned to the UK customs territory. There will be an east-west border between…