Brexit and the Irish border

As we get closer to the important EU Council meeting the amount of coverage on Brexit has increased significantly. Of course more noise does not necessarily equate to more content – there is a lot of uninformed opinion around.

There are some fundamental issues that need to be understood.

While we are talking about the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, we are also talking about a future external border of the EU. That means the issue of the Irish border is very important to the EU and our EU partners and all have the same objectives – to avoid a hard border. Thus, the negative commentary directed at Ireland by Brexiteers and the Brexiteer press, apart from being mostly factually wrong, is badly misdirected.

Of course the impact of a hard border would be felt more by Ireland than in any other Member State (you can find analysis on this here), but the nature of the border is a crucial determinant of the integrity of EU Customs Union and Single Market, and is thus of crucial importance to the EU. This latter point appears not be understood by everyone. To illustrate the significance of the EU external border, and the Irish border will be that post Brexit, it is useful to consider an example:

The UK wants to sign trade deals with other countries, which presumably will give other countries access to the UK market on different terms than are available in the EU. This is why the UK wants to leave the Customs Union. If the UK allows beef from a third country into the UK at a lower tariff than the EU would charge and/or subject to less regulation than applies in the EU (as part of a trade deal), then this beef could enter the EU if there is no hard border. Of course with lower tariffs in the UK than in the EU exporters would move their product through the UK (Northern Ireland) into the EU.

This would mean that the UK would effectively determine EU external trade policy. The EU will not allow such a situation to arise – and neither should Ireland as such a situation is likely to have significant negative impact on Irish businesses and consumers (remember the regulations are there to protect consumers).

This means that the apparent offer by the UK, that there will be no regulatory divergence at least for Northern Ireland, will not avoid the need for a hard border as the issue of different tariffs is not covered by that offer. A hard border will only be avoided if the UK, or at least Northern Ireland, stay in the Customs Union and there is no regulatory divergence – there is no way around this! An offer to avoid regulatory divergence is not enough to move to the next phase of the negotiations.

Even a special status for Northern Ireland, where the border runs through the Irish Sea and where UK authorities ensure that third country products do not end up in the EU market, is problematic as it would be difficult for the EU to enforce the proper policing of that border, given that it is located outside the EU in a sovereign country.

Another important point relates to opinions about the use of existing or yet to be invented technological solution to police the border. A lot of the legitimate routine trade is already processed electronically, and could easily continue to be processed that way. But that does not remove the need to check that what is being transported is what had been declared, and more importantly border checkpoints are there to stop illegal activity. It is hardly credible that criminals are going to be declaring their trade via an online system!? Importantly, once the UK is outside the Customs Union illegal activity will not only encompass the usual things like drug smuggling but will also encompass shipments where the tariffs and duties due in the EU have not been paid or where the goods do not meet EU regulatory requirements. In the event that the UK is outside the Customs Union (tariffs) and Single Market (regulations), Ireland is obliged to police this border adequately, which means physical checks.

This brings me to my next point. It would be very easy for the UK to guarantee that it will not introduce physical border checks, but given the arguments I put forward above, what the UK would needs to guarantee is that the EU will not need to put in physical border check in response to changes introduced by the UK in the wake of Brexit, namely deviations from regulations, tariffs and tariff-quotas.

Finally, there is talk about some form of words being found that would allow negotiations to progress to the next phase. Again given the facts, what is needed are very concrete undertakings that would be legally binding and would avoid the need for a hard border i.e. that the UK will not leave the Customs Union and there will be no regulatory divergence. Without such undertakings the negations should not proceed to phase two. Importantly, this is the point where Ireland holds all the cards, and it would be great mistake to settle for anything less than such an undertaking.

By Edgar Morgenroth

Professor of Economics at Dublin City University Business School

36 replies on “Brexit and the Irish border”

The levels of ignorance and lack of curiosity among UK politicians (including select committees) and journalists on the realities of both the border and WTO requirements has been utterly monumental. The unedifying parade of this ignorance has rendered most of them worse than useless.

The penny will drop with the British public, eventually, as the nonsense will fail to be sustained by the bluster. In this regard, the timing is unfortunate.

One possible way forward (I’m not necessarily recommending it) would be for Ireland to establish sufficient guarantees from the EU that the second round of negotiations will not conclude without a solution for the border issue that is acceptable to the Irish government. Unless we have all missed something this means something equivalent to, or actual, membership of the single market and customs union.

The difference being, that it gives more time for that penny to reach the floor and a public acceptance of SM & CU membership for the UK – and quite likely a questioning of WTF the point of leaving is, exactly – having got the ‘Europe is weird’ sentiment out of the national system.

The problem with the current short timing is that there is not yet sufficient public opinion to stop a walk-away hard Brexit strop from actually happening – though personally I doubt enough Tory MPs really want to have history blame them for that (I think those with safe seats would prefer opposition). It could actually happen though.

Getting convincing guarantees from the EU, without them being subject to much political risk, to kick the can down the road would require careful risk management.

When May took over, she had the opportunity to allow the three Brexiteers to hang themselves, then row in with common sense. Unfortunately she was immediately unable to remain aloof. She is most comfortable in politics with stubbornly sticking to a line. She has done so again here. That she allowed herself to so enthusiastically absorb Brexit enthusiasm has boxed her and her government in.

@Martina and Edgar

V. Useful.

On The English Question, while the intellectually challenged Old Etonians are undergoing remedial tutorials using LEGO on supply-chain analysis ….

…. Blind Biddy suggests that the EU call the Tory/DUP bluff …. let the latter walk if they will and the adults in Labour/SNP/ etc. are open to These Islands continuing to inhabit The Customs Union … Angela really doesn’t need the hassle at the mo ….

No one is likely to figure out how to make three halves of a cake!

The EU26 have their eyes wide open to the issue raised. Barnier on Thursday last speaking to the German Employers Federation.
“Whatever the outcome of the current negotiations, there will be no business as usual. Simply because, in addition to leaving the European Union, the UK government has decided to leave the customs union and the internal market.
Only the combination of the internal market and the customs union allows frictionless trade between us.
The internal market without the customs union – in other words the arrangements within the European Economic Area, for example for Norway – still entails a system of procedures and customs controls, among other things in order to check the preferential rules of origin.
Conversely, a customs union agreement without the internal market – as in the case of Turkey – does not allow the free movement of goods either, since it also implies a system of procedures and customs controls, including controls to check compliance with European standards.
I don’t know if the whole truth has been explained to British businesses on the concrete consequences of Brexit. My responsibility before you and everywhere in Europe is to tell the truth to European businesses.”
The justification for the UK ceasing to participate in the internal market and the customs union, if in a form of association with the EU, is specious. Martin Wolf has just taken “Global Britain” apart in an article in the FT.
There is a concerted effort, even within the UK itself, to bring this point home. The Brexit committee of the House of Commons has come to the conclusion that the “no hard border” mantra and leaving the internal market and the customs union are mutually exclusive.
This saga has some considerable way to run. Ireland retains its “veto” throughout the process. Tusk has cleverly ensured that the NI ball is back, for the moment, where it belongs i.e. being batted back and forth between the protagonists immediately concerned.
But the game is being played on another pitch entirely.

The Brexit committee has been an honourable exception in some ways. The Northern Ireland affairs committee under Colonel Bob Stewart has been more typical of the performance of most MPs.

The legacy media are tuned into the cult of celebrity with their fascination with personality and soundbites rather than facts.

I think that in about a year the average voter and the average political correspondent in the UK will probably know enough about the EU and the country’s involvement with it to make direct democracy via a referendum sensible. Last summer they hadn’t got a clue, and wasn’t that Boris a cheeky chappie. That was about the level of it.

I have no objection per se to England leaving the EU. Its their business. It might even be beneficial to them (depending on which route they go down post-Brexit – Corbyn=bad , slash taxes= good). So far, post-Brexit-referendum but pre-Brexit itself, none of the adverse economic effects have occurred. Irish, UK and EU economies all doing well (see yesterday’s excellent PMI figures).

My objection is to England deciding for N. Ireland.

The obvious solution to the current impasse is a referendum in N. Ireland on whether it stays in the single market.

A poll earlier this week showed a majority would vote to stay. Virtually all nationalists would. A significant chunk of the unionist business community would join them. The Alliance and Green parties (who are neutral between the 2 sides) would both favour it.

Of course, the chances of voting to remain (in the single market) would increase even further if FF moved into N. Ireland and took the lead role in the campaign, pushing aside useless criminal mafia marxist SF.

You are making a fundamental error.
It is not England making this decision.
The 52% came from England,Scotland.Wales and Northern Ireland.
And large numbers of Irish people had the vote too.
You don’t seriously think every one of them voted to Remain ?

The British Political and media elite are making our lot look like selfless states men.

I can’t see why Ireland should settle for anything less of a guarantee of zero regulatory divergence. If the DUP pull out. Labour should get in. Which means super soft Brexit.

One of the saddest things about this whole affair is watching the DUP trying to blame ‘the south’ for a mess they full endorsed and even campaigned for. Going all out on advertising for Brexit in London daily’. All to impress their ‘peers’ in the conservatives. Now the only way forward is for said peers to throw the DUP under the bus. Rarely has such poor political judgement blown up with such obvious and speedy consequences.

Brexit is neo victorian as far as I can see. Laissez faire. Drive wages and food quality down. It is the only way to grow plutocrat wealth in the UK given support for demand is verboten. The Tories need to sort out the Eurosceptics or see the party destroyed. The Telegraph is a very sad sight today.

“In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.”

Friedrich Nietzsche

fyi Nicola Sturgeon in today’s Guardian

‘[…] Last December the Scottish government published what is still the most detailed analysis by a government in the UK of the way forward. It concluded that for the UK and for Scotland, short of EU membership, the best answer to the Brexit problem is to remain in the single market and the customs union.
While it isn’t perfect, the single market protects workers and environmental rights; allows us to work, study, and live in other countries; brings investment into the UK as a whole; and at a stroke solves the challenges on the island of Ireland. It is without a doubt still, after all these months, the best way forward. …

Read on:

Meanwhile, across the big pond, v. strong empirical support for the corporate and media takeover of what used to be known as A State and, imho, the point of inflection which prob leads do the megatsunami of another financial crash down the line.


Is a “one-sided” border feasible? So the EU would regulate any imports from N Ireland (thereby protecting the integrity of the customs union), but the UK commits to free flow of goods and people from Ireland?

After all, if the UK gov really believes a “soft border” is feasible, then that commitment to let goods and people flow freely from Ireland should be fine. If this turns out to be a problem for the UK, it can always impose controls between N Ireland and the British mainland.

PS: I am assuming the Irish nationalists object to having British security enforcing customs controls on the British side, but would be fine with Irish security enforcing customs control in the EU side. If this assumption is correct, the fears about conflicts returning go away. Am I right?

Is a “one-sided” border feasible?……..After all, if the UK gov really believes a “soft border” is feasible, then that commitment to let goods and people flow freely from Ireland should be fine.

No, WTO requirements on UK, and the would concept of Brexit meaning (for the Ultras) ‘taking back control’.

“If this turns out to be a problem for the UK, it can always impose controls between N Ireland and the British mainland.”

This would not be likely to be acceptable to the Unionist community in Northern Ireland as it, from their perspective, drives a wedge between two parts of the UK. It would be seen as favouring Irish Nationalism’s ambition for a united Ireland.

“I am assuming the Irish nationalists object to having British security enforcing customs controls on the British side, but would be fine with Irish security enforcing customs control in the EU side.”

Not really, the Nationalist preference is for the actual existence of the border to be effectively deniable. It isn’t quite possible because there are different laws on each side of the border – the border exists, but putting check points on it would be like putting big flashing neon lights on it saying “Don’t forget, this bit is a separate country”.

Anything put on that border, however small, will be destroyed on day one. It would spawn a new sport immediately. One which everyone on the island of island would support. 99.999% support.

License plate scanner or Camera. Gone. 1 minute after install.
Drone. Some lad in Louth would train an Eagle to destroy it.
Checkpoints. No one is dumb enough to man/woman a checkpoint on a border no one wants.

What solution did the DUP give for this problem during their Brexit campaigning…… that’s right….crickets.

“Anything put on that border, however small, will be destroyed on day one.”

If – and its still an ‘if’, a physical structure is required along the land (and sea) frontier between RoI and UK then its likely to be modelled on the Berlin Wall, or something similar of European origin with strictly limited road, rail and sea access points. It would be situate at least 5 Km inside the RoI, be continuous from Carlingford to Foyle and would be ‘policed’ 24/7 by Eurocorp military personnel. It would be a genuine ‘wall’ – and make no mistake.

@Brian Woods – Your premise is factually incorrect – the Berlin Wall was not built by the EU but by the communist East Germany, and it was not there to control trade but to prevent people leaving East Germany.
You are also wrong on Eurocorp – controlling the external border of the EU is a matter for each individual Member State and the EU will expect us to meet our obligations (and so we should as we need to protect Irish businesses from unfair competition).

Post Brexit, the Irish border will be just one of over 40 external borders of the EU. The nature of the Brexit will determine whether it will be necessary to police this border like the border between Norway and Sweden or like the one between Russia and Finland. It is up to the UK to decide what of the status quo they want to change, and the EU will react to that. The problem has been that the UK has either been unwilling or unable (you decide) to elaborate coherently on this (having your cake and eating it is not coherent!).

Maybe you never crossed an EU border before the Single Market came into effect, but amazingly there were border controls in the EEC – a lot of people seem to have forgotten that!

Edgar – I have this quaint notion that the land frontier between UK and RoI was a very unfunny construct. Like we had a hot and cold civil war raging across it. Shooting; explosions, murders etc. etc. Not to mention the stateless bovines who were endlessly cycled and re-cycled. Consider it as a dormant volcano – not extinct. It may never re-erupt in our lifetimes. Hopefully.

Your analogies to Norway, Sweden, Russia and Finland are not valid for this island. The latter pair did indeed have a serious conflict, but that’s history. Our frontier is not history – its current. So very great care is required by the various participants in sorting out what to do. If the EU-UK negotiations dictate the need for a ‘border’ then it would have to be situate on the european mainland. We would, in the infamous words of that ball-kicker – “Just have to suck it up.”

I do know what the Berlin Wall was for – it was to mitigate the western Allies from political meddling and spying. The travel impediment in the opposite direction was an unfortunate economic externality. But ideological driven elites of all stripes are like that. Idiots who do real harm – for other peoples’ good. Sound familiar? ECB spring to mind?

@Brian Woods – you are totally wrong on the Berlin Wall.

Regarding the Irish border, of course there is a huge difference to most other borders (not all – Cyprus-Northern Cyprus), but that does not remove the issues relating to borders and the need for them. That is why it is so important to get this right, and unfortunately the Brexiteers and the UK electorate paid little attention to it until very recently.

At the time of writing this post it is being reported that the UK will concede on both regulatory divergence (alignment appears to be the word) and the customs union (according to a tweet by Tony Connelly). I hope this is true. Remember one out of two won’t do!

Not agreed because of the predictable reaction of the DUP, but acceptable to Dublin, apparently:

“In the absence of agreed solutions the UK will ensure that continued regulatory alignment with those rules of the internal market and the customs union which, now or in the future, support North South cooperation and the protection of the Good Friday Agreement”

So that would have been the can being kicked into the second round, but with the only way of this being acceptable to all island of Ireland stakeholders being an equally ‘soft’ exit for mainland Britain eventually finding its way past the Tory right and the rest of the Brexit Ultras. If that didn’t prove possible, and a hard Brexit was agreed for the rest of Britain, then it would be the Northern Irish Unionists that would have been left – from their perspective – hung out to dry with an economic border between them and the rest of their country.

It would be one thing for them to find themselves in that position after political deals by bigger players, but how were they expected to run that risk while in the most powerful position they could probably ever get in Westminster – propping up a Conservative government?

It may be that my suggestion above of re-locating the Irish veto into the second round could get past the current impasse, but there would be risks for the Unionists in that by late in the second round they might not be in such a powerful position, and for the Irish government in that they might come under political pressure from other countries whose attention had turned towards trade and actually have to be willing to use a veto and take the political consequences within the EU.

However, I think that by that time public opinion in the UK would have continued to shift towards either a ‘soft’ Brexit, or even more likely, none at all, so things might just slide into place.

If no real initiative is taken, and the DUP don’t back down, then May will be pushing with Hammond against the Telegraph, Johnson, Gove, Redwood, Rees-Mogg, Murdock and the rest for a soft Brexit. How does the cabinet continue then?

Presumably that would accelerate things with the possibilities of UK General election, Brexit cancelled/postponed, or even a bonkers walk away Brexit getting new attention.

Even if this “regulatory alignment” fudge between North and South can be made to stick, will it not create additional problems for both NI and Ireland in relation to trade with Britain? Whichever way this is sliced it’s all a total mess.

The best outcome is for the UK Government to fall precipitating an election. It is totally incapable of governing. There is no guarantee that Labour, led by the Corbyn/McDonnell duumvirate, will win. Quite a few voters realise that they made a mistake when they voted for Brexit. It may be that they and other voters will be reluctant to create another shambles by electing Labour. But even if Labour wins it won’t take voters long to recognise the inevitable omnishambles that will unfold.

In any event it will require whatever government emerges to secure agreement with the EU to extend the Article 50 process by at least a year. The effective functioning of democracy requires that voters have the opportunity to reflect and to change their minds. Referendums proposed with the intention to usurp or abuse established constitutional arrangements are the tools of demagogues and dictators. We don’t have to evidence the validity of Godwin’s Law to support this assertion. 1983 saw a perfect example of this in Ireland.

British voters need some time to set aside at least some of the lies they’ve been told about the EU and its institutions over the last 40 years by their media and politicians. It’s proving to be a long and slow educational process.

You mean like the Nice and Lisbon Treaties where the electorate is encouraged to keep voting until it gets the right result for the EU ?
The reality is there has been virtually no change in British public opinion over Brexit since the referendum.
I know there are still some people like the Japanese soldier in the jungle convinced the war is still being fought but even Jean-Claude Juncker has thrown to towel on that one.
May and the DUP will choose Hard Brexit rather than let in a Marxist Corbyn government and they’ll have the support of a large number of Remain supporters in doing that.
Leo Varadkar is playing a very dangerous and in my opinion incompetent game to allow himself to be used so easily by the EU.
Did he really think Donald Tusk flew to Dublin last week to fawn over him because he cared passionately about the Irish border question ?
It is in Ireland’s best interests that Varadkar works with the UK and not against them to achieve a border solution – they will still rely on each other much more in years to come when Ireland’s political use to the EU has diminished.

@Professor Pie-Tin You are right on not wasting time rerunning the referendum – the outcome will be the same overall. Perhaps the majority to remain would increase in Northern Ireland Scotland and even Wales might change its mind but the majority of UK (English) voters seem to want to leave. That is their prerogative and let them do it. In the same way it is the EUs prerogative to address the consequences of this, and as I argued above the objectives of Ireland and the EU are the same.

Putting a deal on Northern Ireland to a referendum is appealing, but won’t happen as the DUP know that they will loose it and it also is not practicable as it takes time to organise and the clock is ticking.

A fudge now to move to phase 2 will inevitably result in a hard border, so it is strategically better to hold out for an acceptable agreement (that means on that meets both of my criteria) and if that is not forthcoming nothing is lost as we end up in the same hard Brexit (I will write another blog entry on this and the negotiations).

I re-emphasise we (Ireland and the EU) hold all the cards (someone tell the Brexiteers).

When you say we ( Ireland and the EU ) hold all the cards the UK is holding a fairly large one itself – worth upwards of €50billion to the EU budget.
With regards to the border it is ludicrous to think the UK should agree to anything other than a fudge on the border issue until the details of any future trade deal is known.
And the suggestion that a referendum be given to Norther Ireland on any deal really is away with the birds and one that would be met with instant objections not just from the DUP but the bulk of the Conservative party too.
At this stage it appears the EU is fully aware of the dangers of pushing May towards the extreme Brexiteers in her party but I’m not so sure Leo Varadkar has the same experience and grasp of the wider picture they have.
Ireland really needs to tread carefully as it has the most to lose.Triumphalism and grandstanding should not replace quiet diplomacy.

Ireland has precious little to lose by holding a hard line. The Brexiteers already want a hard Brexit and a hard border. There’s no credible threat of more damage they can do to Ireland.

And if the govt’s insistence gets a soft border and (hopefully) a soft Brexit then the damage to the relationship from anything the Irish govt says now will be minimal because soft-Brexiteers will be in power by then and the hard-Brexiteers will be out.

The UK is headed for a so-called hard Brexit (in terms of being outside the customs union, the internal market and the jurisdiction of the ECJ) irrespective of which party is in power. Both major British parties have been taken over by rumps that are not fully representative of the broad sweep of British public opinion (even if they do resonate with some opinions that have been formed or distorted by the peddling of lies, deceit and prejudice) – the Tories by 35-40 ardent, know-nothing Brexiteers and Labour by this Corbyn/McDonnell duumvirate that has excoriated the EEC/EC/EU as a capitalist ramp for more than 40 years. And to top it all the DUP, which has as much in common with the majority of British people as the puritan officer class of Cromwell’s and Fairfax’s New Model Army of the 1640s would have, is now the tail wagging the dog.

The Irish government has no option but to push as hard as possible for the preservation of the hard-won current normality of movement across the border and the integrity of the internal market, the customs union and the jurisdiction of the ECJ. It will be blamed by the Brexiteers and the rabid right-wing press in Britain irrespective of what happens. It will take a long time for the traditional good sense of a majority of British voters to re-assert itself. In the meantime, Irish governments will have to prepare for and to manage a hard Brexit and to nail down continuing EU support. The only hope is that the transitional/imlementation phase will drag on and on.

Text from Blind Biddy:

There is great disorder under heaven; the situation remains excellent.

Don’t miss the shift in UK public opinion.

The biggest movement to date is among those that didn’t vote – it is less embarrassing for them to admit to themselves they didn’t understand what they were voting for, because they didn’t vote.

I have always thought this trend would establish itself, and an very, very confident that the Tory right know they have only a very short window with the public in which to get the UK out of the EU. That was why A50 was triggered before there was a plan.

The latest from Survation was taken after the climb-down on the 40- 50 bn Brexit bill, but before the latest shambles:

“Survation’s poll for the Mail on Sunday, conducted in the wake of the recent controversies over future UK payments to the EU, and the conundrum of the Irish border, suggests that if there were a referendum now, the result would be the reverse of that in the vote 18 months ago, with 52% voting to remain in the EU and 48% voting for Brexit. Survation’s last poll, in July, had the two sides almost exactly level-pegging. On its own, this small shift might be simply a product of sampling fluctuation; but YouGov, which conducts polls more frequently, has detected the same shift since the summer. It looks real, if still modest.

Possibly more significant is another question that Survation has repeated: once the Brexit negotiations are complete, would people support or oppose holding a fresh referendum on whether to accept or reject them? Back in July, voters divided 46-39% in favour of a fresh referendum. The latest figures are: support 50%, oppose 34%. A seven point margin in favour of a new vote has more than doubled to 16 points.”

@ grumpy. Until the polls show a landslide shift in English public opinion, there is zero chance of another referendum. Or of reversing Brexit. Mitigating its consequences is the name of the game.

I agree with you entirely. There is zero chance of a second referendum unless there is a dramatic shift in public opinion.

I anticipate a significant shift in public opinion if the UK government pursues a hard Brexit and a really dramatic swing if they go for a ‘walk away’.

Public opinion may hold up if there is a soft enough Brexit,. There would though be a diminution of the motivation of leavers.

As I pointed out at the beginning of this thread, the real game is on a different pitch i.e. the NI border is only unusual in that it is the UK’s only land border which will become an external border as far as the EU is concerned in its future relations with the UK. But there will be many others.
The UK has also sought a transition. In other words, it is INCAPABLE of coping with the practical consequences of leaving the EU on 29 March 2019 at 11p.m. GMT (how ridiculous can one get!), a date that only applies in the event of there being NO agreement.
Keir Starmer, the only statesman left in the UK, is moving the debate to where it belongs i.e. forcing May off the stance of ruling out participation by the UK in both the internal market and the customs union as a possible outcome to the negotiations.
The Irish government is perfectly correct in looking to the broader picture and seeking to guarantee that, whatever happens, the GFA will not be put at risk. That it has the solid backing of the EU26 is no surprise. They are protecting their own interests.

“[the] NI border is only unusual in that it is the UK’s only land border which will become an external border as far as the EU is concerned in its future relations with the UK. But there will be many others.”

Unusual??? Its damn unique! And its the only internal EU border which has experienced very violent activities. Fortunately for both the UK and the remainder of the EU this border is confined to a semi-isolated island. Lucky EU! But not for us who live in RoI.

Westminster will never allow the Scots to secede – but NI? The pols in RoI and NI had better be real careful what they wish for – no border! They may very well get this foolish wish, but not in the timeframe or form that either are prepared for.

The emergent political migraine for the EU (and all western european states) is the rise and rise of Russia and China- despite the worst efforts of the US. Eastern Ukraine is a de facto shooting war zone – but historically, its Russian by both conquest and culture! So no points for guessing who will eventually suceed here. Western Ukraine is not secure, but it can be by-passed. Europe is heavily reliant on natural gas supplies from east. So ….

Some folks’ gazes are fixedly Eastwards. So should ours. Brexit is an overture.

” Keir Starmer,the only Statesman left in the UK ” ?
This is the same Keir Starmer whose Labour shadow cabinet whipped their MPs to vote against staying in single market/customs union (and sacked three shadow ministers for rebelling over this) but now has the gall to castigate the Tories for taking the option off the table.
He says he wants to end the free movement of people but stay in the Single Market.Hello ?
The man changes his mind so frequently he’ll have three different opinions on Brexit between his alarm going off in the morning and his bowl of porridge.
Mind you he’s not alone in the Labour’s Front Bench which is as chaotically split as May’s cabinet.

John McDonnell: we must leave the single market to respect the referendum result

Tom Watson: we should stay in the single market and customs union permanently

Jon Ashworth, Jenny Chapman: we have to leave the single market

Diane Abbott: we should keep freedom of movement

Jeremy Corbyn, Keir Starmer: freedom of movement ends with Brexit

Barry Gardiner: staying in the customs union would be a disaster

Corbyn: whipped vote against single market and customs union membership

Starmer: we should stay in the single market and customs union (which means keeping free movement)

I would invite you to read the article by Starmer in today’s Guardian (and also the leader).
I was hasty in my assessment. There is one other candidate for the accolade; Hilary Benn.

Would this be The Guardian that campaigns against tax avoidance by big business yet is funded by a Trust Fund situated overseas to avoid tax ?
And was the leader composed by their star writer Polly Toynbee who railed against empty homes owned by multi-millionaires in Kensington and Chelsea at the time of the Grenfell Fire while staying at her luxury holiday villa in Tuscany while on a break from her multi-million pound Islington abode ?
I’m not sure whether The Guardian is unreadable because it is so badly written or because it suffers from the same myopic and hysterical view of Brexit as the Irish Times.
Either way I tend to take anything I read in them both with a pinch of salt.
But I agree with you on Hilary Benn who is the outstanding Labour politician of his generation – which is why Corbyn sacked him.

Hi, Prof P-T; no relationship to Professor J-T? 😉

“[He] says he wants to end the free movement of people but stay in the Single Market. ….”

The ‘Free Movement of People’ is, in economic terms, a complete and wretched disaster for the country which (economically) is the most attractive. But ideologically crippled folk cannot understand this. However, the locals do understand it – and will lobby against it; peaceably or violently whichever achieves the outcome they want.

The western and northern migration of stateless and impoverished refugees or whatever you wish to label them is simply heaping additional, politically combustible material, onto an already massive bonfire-in-waiting.


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