City A.M.: With free trade, the Irish border is an issue for the EU, not the UK

8 December 2017

THE FAMOUS line from the Carry On film, “infamy, infamy, they’ve all got it in for me”, could have been written for the Prime Minister and the Northern Ireland border issue.

We are told this is a problem with no solution, that it will see us crashing out of the EU with no deal, or that the DUP won’t play ball, leading to the end of the party’s confidence and supply agreement with the Conservatives. The problem is seen as unfathomable because the solution has to deliver so much: no membership of the Single Market or Customs Union, no physical border crossings, and no red line through the Irish Sea. And just for good measure, it has to avoid the threat of a veto by the Republic of Ireland and the rest of the EU.

All of this can be addressed in one fell swoop. If the UK chose to pursue genuine free trade post-Brexit, the border issue would become an exproblem. If Britain decided to exercise its sovereign power and implement zero tariff and non-tariff barriers to imports, the border issue would disappear like an early morning mist over County Down.

The key point is that a genuine free trade solution does tick all the boxes. The UK would be outside the Single Market and Customs Union, the DUP would be happy because there would be equivalence with the rest of the UK, and there would be no physical border presence to threaten the peace settled by the Good Friday Agreement.

Job done? Not quite. In this scenario, the entire problem would move from London to Dublin and Brussels.

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

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