Border not ‘insoluble obstacle to Brexit negotiations it has been made out to be’

Policy Exchange paper claims frictionless border in Ireland entirely possible

Dr Graham  Gudgin and Ray Basset claim in “Getting Over the Line: Solutions to the Irish Border” the UK government should pursue the maximum facilitation (max-fac) arrangement – which involves using new technologies – to break through the Brexit impasse. Photograph: Brian O’Leary/RollingNews.ie

Dr Graham Gudgin and Ray Basset claim in “Getting Over the Line: Solutions to the Irish Border” the UK government should pursue the maximum facilitation (max-fac) arrangement – which involves using new technologies – to break through the Brexit impasse. Photograph: Brian O’Leary/RollingNews.ie

 

A UK/EU free trade agreement and technical solutions to Border crossings would enable the UK to leave the single market and customs union “while preserving a frictionless border in Ireland”, according to a new paper published by the UK think thank, Policy Exchange.

The paper written by Dr Graham Gudgin, previously an adviser to former first minister David Trimble and Ray Bassett, a former Irish ambassador and part of the Irish government talks team during the negotiations for the Belfast Agreement, argues that the Border is “not the insoluble obstacle to Brexit negotiations that it has been made out to be”.

Instead Dr Gudgin and Mr Basset claim in their paper Getting Over the Line: Solutions to the Irish Border, that the UK government should pursue the maximum facilitation (max-fac) arrangement – which involves using new technologies – to break through what they describe as the current Brexit impasse and that because the Belfast Agreement is in “relatively good health” Brexit “will not endanger peace”.

Dr Gudgin and Mr Basset argue the Brexit negotiations should have three key aims: to respect the UK’s referendum result, including its departure from the single market and customs union; preserve a frictionless border between Northern Ireland and the Republic; and maintain the free flow of trade between the UK and EU, including Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Light-touch border

Dr Gudgin said: “A solution that respects the Brexit referendum and maintains a light-touch border is achievable. Modern technology means that physical customs posts, or even cameras, are no longer essential at borders. This is the case made by the EU’s own customs expert, Lars Karlsson, who envisages the use of mobile phone and GPS technology to track HGVs, together with the computer-based customs clearing which is the norm across much of the world.

“The Irish Government is playing a dangerous game by demanding that Northern Ireland remains within the EU customs union and by threatening vetoes. Ireland more than any EU economy needs free trade with the UK but has made no efforts to promote such an agreement in Brussels. ”

In addition, his former boss, Lord Trimble, claims in a foreword to the report published on Wednesday that “fears over a hard border are only as strong as the refusal of those who do not engage with a workable technological solution”. Lord Trimble also argues that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar “is endangering more than three decades of goodwill built up between London and Dublin”. “Such a relationship has value, not least actual – witness the direct loan to the Republic during the financial crisis when Brussels was reticent. While if anyone is threatening the return of a hard border, it is the reckless intransigence of Michel Barnier, ” he states.