Saturday , June 22 2024

The Northern Ireland Border Issue – The ERG Report

The Government has proposed that the UK should be subject to the full EU Customs Union rules for the trade in goods so that goods can flow between NI and the Republic of Ireland exactly as they do at present.  Is it necessary for the UK to stay in the Customs Union for the free flow of goods between NI and the RoI?

Only 4.9% of Northern Ireland’s trade is conducted across the NI/Republic of Ireland border.

Most of this small trade is agricultural produce.  The European Research Group, in its paper on the Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland Border Post Brexit has proposed that an open border between the North and South of Ireland can be maintained by a simple set of measures.

The proposals are that the necessary customs declarations can be incorporated into VAT Returns or into Customs forms for non-VAT registered traders. Licensed customs brokers would support small businesses who are new to customs procedures. Both the CEO of the HMRC and the Head of Irish Revenue have confirmed that this type of system would be acceptable.  There would also be conformity between UK and EU agricultural products.

Yes, it would be that simple.

It has not been made clear in the various discussions of the border issue that actually very little happens at modern borders.  It is Trading Standards officers working inland who pick up failures by imports to meet standards and who deal with false declarations of origins, it is immigration officers working inland who pick up overstaying migrants.  Even where borders with the EU exist only 1% to 3% of goods are actually checked by Customs.

So why is the Northern Ireland Border portrayed as an insoluble problem?

If you support Remaining in the EU the coverage of the Northern Ireland Border issue by the broadcast media and especially the BBC should really worry you.  In fact it was always obvious that any customs arrangements between NI and RoI would need to occur away from the border and such arrangements are not that difficult. That the Heads of the responsible Customs agencies agree should persuade you that the arrangements are really not that difficult.  So why are broadcasters failing to cover this?  We should all be angry at the way the media is manipulating the information available to us about Brexit.

We can tell that Remain supporters are desperate to stir up trouble in Ireland to achieve their aims from the Guardian reaction to the ERG proposals. (Remember that the Guardian hosted articles that said the UK should be punished for Brexit). The Guardian’s first objection to the proposals were simply an historical quote by an Irish politician saying he was appalled by Brexit.  They then stress the tiny amount of traffic going from Liverpool to NI via Dublin rather than Belfast as a deal breaker when, clearly, the Dublin route should come under ordinary International Customs.  On agricultural goods  they treat the lack of any current process as if it were simply not possible to have a process.  They also make statements such as “border checks on even 1%” as if that were a tiny number of checks without mentioning that this is the current level of checking.  All of this shows that even the Guardian, the most biased publication in the UK, was unable to find significant fault with the ERG proposals but simply dismissed them because they would allow an orderly Brexit.

This post was originally published by the author on his personal blog:

About John Sydenham

Dr John Sydenham has worked in International Pharmaceuticals and for one of the "big four" International Consultancies. He ran a successful company for 15 years and after selling the company devotes his time to travel, science, black labradors and freedom.

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