City A.M.: The Irish border scuffle could be turned to the UK’s advantage in Brexit negotiations

The storm over the EU’s letter about the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland is not quite the beast from the east, but it is being used by some to drive a snow-plough through the heart of the Brexit negotiations.

The EU says Northern Ireland will have to be part of the customs union in order to prevent a hard border and customs checks. But this is sheer tosh, for two reasons.

First, World Bank figures show that for the most advanced economies, between 95 and 99 per cent of all traded goods are now pre-cleared without physical inspection.

As the MEP Daniel Hannan has pointed out, electronic clearance has replaced border officials with peaked caps and epaulettes. HMRC only physically checks four per cent of consignments entering the EU at the UK’s external border.

Physical border checks are part of a bygone age. They are not required in the twenty-first century in order to enforce customs.

The idea that every crossover point between Northern Ireland and the Republic would need to be manned, with mandatory searches, is a complete and utter fiction. But that mental picture is being used to scare us into thinking that Brexit means physical border checks, which remind people of soldiers and police searching vehicles before the Good Friday Agreement.

To read Graeme Leach’s piece for City A.M. in full, click here.

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