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Nelson McCausland: A 'smart border' could be solution to Brexit ... if only EU, Dublin and Remoaners had brains to see it


The border between Northern Ireland and the Republic is major obstacle to Brexit

The border between Northern Ireland and the Republic is major obstacle to Brexit


The border between Northern Ireland and the Republic is major obstacle to Brexit

Brexit continues to dominate news programmes and the print media day after day. Indeed, the number and complexity of Brexit stories seems to be increasing. For those intent on frustrating Brexit and subverting the referendum, this is probably encouraging.

The EU does not want the United Kingdom to leave, because they fear that other countries will follow and so they are determined to make our exit as difficult and unpleasant as possible. In effect, they want to punish the United Kingdom.

They also fear the prospect of a successful UK outside the EU, because that would only encourage other countries to consider leaving. Committed as they are to their vision of a federal united states of Europe, the eurocrats are doing everything they can to stop Brexit. In that context, they are able to use a compliant Fine Gael government in Dublin to assist them.

Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney are adopting an increasingly intrusive and abrasive approach to Northern Ireland.

They simply refuse to work in partnership to find a practical outcome for the border. Moreover, that intrusiveness is not restricted to Brexit, because we have also had Simon Coveney championing the cause of dissident republican prisoner Tony Taylor. That is the background to the recent well-founded remarks by Sammy Wilson, in which he accused Dublin of “belligerence” and “Brit-bashing”.

The truth is that many Dublin politicians, especially those in Fine Gael, are being very short-sighted and are playing a dangerous game, which could end up damaging their own economy.

They must believe that their abrasive approach is playing out well with the electorate in the Republic, as they prepare for the next election, but any short-term electoral advantage could well lead on to the longer-term detriment of the southern economy.

As well as Brussels and Dublin, we also have the Remoaners, who seem to have been so traumatised that they are unable to accept the result of the referendum.

How dare so many ordinary people vote to leave the EU when they, the liberal elite, know better.

They, too, are keen to keep the pot boiling and to create controversy and confusion.

Meanwhile, in Northern Ireland, the various shades of Irish nationalism and republicanism want to use Brexit for party political advantage, and inter-party competition seems to be the order of the day. That is why we have the nonsense of Sinn Fein’s amateur dramatics with “border post” re-enactments and republicans dressed up as policemen.

I was amused the other evening when I was on Newsnight with Sinn Fein’s Martina Anderson to hear her express her concern about any infrastructure on the border.

It was a surreal comment, because, for 30 years, we had a very substantial infrastructure on the border and it was nothing to do with customs. It was because of the way in which the Provisional IRA, of which she was then a member, used the border to import arms and to mount terrorist operations.

For the sake of Northern Ireland and for the sake of the Irish Republic, we need to find a sensible outcome and I would suggest that it is what Lars Karlsson, former director of the World Customs Organisation, calls a “smart border”.

We live in an increasingly digital and technological age and that is the way the world is moving. It would not be simply a Norway-Sweden border model; it would be something more advanced than that. But it could be done and it could make Ireland and the UK a world-leader in cross-border technology.

There was a Common Travel Area before the EU, so the movement of people is not the issue; it is the movement of goods. And, for that, a “smart border” with a “trusted trader” scheme and some sectoral exemptions could well provide much of the solution.

So, why are Dublin and Brussels so resistant to sitting down with the UK and working in partnership for a “smart border”?

The answer is that Brussels, Dublin and the Remoaners are not interested in a resolution. They prefer to inflate the complexity of the issue in order to frustrate Brexit.

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