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The merry-go-round of Irish border warnings is not what it seems

THE Establishment-backed campaign against Brexit bears some resemblance to that against Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Almost every day, there’s a report highlighting something negative about them. That’s only to be expected.

But it’s the merry-go-round reappearance of the same horses, time and time again, albeit sometimes with different riders, that aims to grind down any enthusiasm for them.

In Jeremy Corbyn’s case, we have the regular and often co-ordinated reappearance of the anti-semitism smear, the accusation that owes his position to Communist and Trotskyist infiltrators or Momentum bullies and “stormtroopers,” the claim that he supports terrorism, the allegations that he is a threat to national security, soft on Vladimir Putin, a pacifist who would dismantle Britain’s defences.

In the case of Brexit, it is the endless scares about traffic chaos, shortages of food and medicines, the possible collapse of the NHS, threats to national security, a flight of industries and jobs and — yet again most recently — the threat of a “hard border” in Ireland destroying the Good Friday Agreement and the peace process.

This week the warnings connecting Brexit with the Irish border, the GFA and a revival of violence have been delivered by US House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi in speeches in London and Dublin.

For good measure, she also announced that there could be no US-UK trade agreement should Brexit undermine peace in Ireland.

She repeated the same message when visiting the almost invisible border between Northern Ireland the Irish Republic today, heading a gaggle of US politicians and diplomats.

Coincidentally, we are asked to believe, today’s re-repetition happened at the very time that a Home Office document was leaked that could find no technological alternative to the return of border infrastructure between north and south.

Yet the whole “Brexit-border-GFA-terrorism” nightmare scenario is a concoction of cynical and reckless politicians, commentators and top bureaucrats.

Its intention is to undermine Brexit in general and justify the Irish backstop in the UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement in particular.

This backstop would keep Britain in a “single customs territory” with Northern Ireland and the EU after Brexit and its transition period, and aligned with most EU single market and customs union rules, unless the EU agrees to any alternative British scheme to maintain a frictionless north-south Irish border.

Nobody should deny that there is an ever-present danger of a return to political violence in Ireland. This will remain a possibility for at least as long as the border first imposed by British imperialism in 1921 remains.

But the facts are that there already is an invisible, frictionless north-south border, despite substantially different economic tax regimes between the UK and the Irish Republic.

The London, Belfast and Irish governments have already disavowed any intention to rebuild customs infrastructure, all of which was dismantled 25 years ago, under any circumstances.

Although the GFA commits the British and Irish governments to maintain and develop north-south and cross-border co-operation, it makes no specific mention of economic relations, trade, customs arrangements or commercial borders.

And as the home affairs committee of the European Parliament found in its report Smart Border 2.0 (2014), notification procedures, non-border spot checks and achievable technology make a hard border unnecessary with or without UK involvement in a European single market or customs union.


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