Rayhan Ahmed Topader :
When the U.K.eventually leaves the EU, the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland will require a border apparatus to check passports of visitors, track the origin and quality of goods, and collect appropriate taxes or customs. Recreating border infrastructure risks undermining the extensive economic integration that has developed between Ireland and Northern Ireland. The EU Referendum debate focused on two specific issues related to the political stability of the province and the Irish border, particularly as far as the Remainers were concerned. On the one hand, it was feared that leaving the EU would threaten the peace process since it would undermine the devolution settlement, which had been signed in April 1998. On the other hand, the issue of the Irish border raised quite a bit of uncertainty in the case of Brexit. Several politicians, like Prime Minister David Cameron, insisted that border checks should be implemented since Northern Ireland, which was the only nation of the UK to have a land border with another EU member, would become a non-EU country while the Republic of Ireland would remain part of it. Would Brexit really threaten Northern Ireland’s stability? In order to answer this question and assess the role played by EU membership in this debate, this paper will first focus on the specificities of the political and constitutional context of Northern Ireland before analysing the attitude of the population and the traditional policy of the main political parties towards the EU.
The concerns raised by the issues of the peace process and the Irish border during the EU referendum debate will then be examined. Finally, this article will try to assess whether these fears were justified. The UK left the European Union on 31 January but a transition period – where the UK continues to follow some of the bloc’s rules remains in place until 31 December while the two sides negotiate a trade agreement. However, trade talks have been taking place since March and both sides have complained of little progress being made.If a deal is not agreed and ratified by parliaments by the end of the year, the UK will go into 2021 trading with the bloc on World Trade Organization rules, which critics fear cause issues at the border. The Road Haulage Association warns. The UK is sleepwalking into a disaster over its border plans for the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December, road hauliers have warned.Groups representing truckers have written to ministers warning of severe disruption to supply chains. Rod McKenzie, from the Road Haulage Association, said the government should act now before it’s too late.But Boris Johnson said the UK was “ready for any eventuality” after the transition period.The government has also given itself powers to build temporary lorry parks in England without local approval. It is a real case of the government sleepwalking to a disaster with the border preparations that we have, whether it is a deal or no-deal Brexit at the end of December.
The difference here is between a disaster area and a disaster area with rocket boosters on.Labour’s shadow cabinet office minister, Rachel Reeves, said the government “must urgently come forward with a plan to put workable solutions in place”.In a letter to the Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove, seen by Bloomberg , eight logistics organisations – including the Road Haulage Association – raised concerns over IT systems, the funding to train up customs agents and the pace of physical infrastructure being built.They asked for an urgent roundtable meeting with Mr Gove, Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Transport Secretary Grants Shapps, saying supply chain must be protected ahead of a potential second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.Mr Shapps said he regularly met the Road Haulage Association and wanted to reassure them “planning for the end of the transition period hasn’t stopped” during the coronavirus outbreak.It’ll mean new hurdles for traders to clear, including the need to fill in customs declarations forms with detailed information on goods being imported and exported. For the first six months of this new era and whatever the outcome of the negotiations between the UK and the EU goods entering the UK will not have to complete these processes, as they normally would, at the border. Instead, the government is giving businesses time to file their paperwork and pay the duties they owe after the goods have entered the UK.
This exceptional measure is designed to mitigate the risk of delays for goods coming into the UK.However, for goods being exported the concern is greater. The EU has said it will impose its normal controls. And on the UK side, key systems to manage the flow of lorries at the UK border and make sure consignments are cleared to proceed to the EU are not up and running.The concern among the industry is that this could lead to lorries being refused entry onto ferries headed for the EU, long tail-backs at the ports through which much of the UK’s trade with the EU flows and slow down and disrupt the supply chains between UK and EU businesses.In short, it becomes hard to conduct business as usual if you can’t get your goods to the customer Shane Brennan, chief executive of the Cold Chain Federation another of the groups who wrote the letter acknowledged the government was carrying out work on the necessary systems now. But he said there was no time to get these systems in place to actually do the job effectively. Northern Ireland’s exports are also highly concentrated in the at most risk market. In the same year, 58pc of Northern Ireland’s total exports went to the EU, with more than a fifth of those to countries other than the Republic. Agri-food is one of the sectors that could be worst hit, north and south. The report notes tariffs in the sector could vary considerably.It cites a recent report from InterTradeIreland which stated that the imposition of tariffs could see cross-border trade fall in value by 9pc.
The importance of cross-border trade to small firms, the integration of the agri-food industry and other sectors and the frequency of movement of people, have been helped in recent years by what the report terms “border management”.This includes cross-border co-operation between business bodies, third-level institutions, the health services and community and voluntary groups.The success of any future regime for the management of the Irish Border will be judged not only on how well it answers the political and economic dilemmas caused by Brexit, but also how far it allows the current level of co-dependencies which exist across council areas to continue unhindered. Would Brexit really threaten Northern Ireland’s stability? In order to answer this question and assess the role played by EU membership in this debate, this paper will first focus on the specificities of the political and constitutional context of Northern Ireland. Even if Northern Ireland shares commonalities with the rest of the UK, this paper will highlight the special status of the province. It will then analyse to what extent the European issue is divisive amongst the Northern Irish population and the main political parties, namely the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) as well as Sinn Féin,3 before touching on their attitudes towards the EU. The concerns linked to the issues of the peace process and the Irish border during the EU referendum debate will also be examined. Finally, this work will try to assess whether these fears were justified
Writer and Columnist