Boris Johnson has compared the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to the border between Camden and Westminster in London.
W H A T H E S A I D:
“We think that we can have very efficient facilitation systems to make sure that there’s no need for a hard border, excessive checks at the frontier between Northern Ireland and the Republic. For people listening, there’s no border between Camden and Westminster, but when I was mayor of London we anaesthetically and invisibly took hundreds of millions of pounds from the accounts of people travelling between those two boroughs without any need for border checks whatever.
“I think it’s a very relevant comparison, because there is all sorts of scope for pre-booking, electronic checks, all sorts of things that you can do to obviate the need for a hard border, to allow us to come out of the customs union, take back control of our trade policy and do trade deals.”
W H A T H E W A S (P R E S U M A B L Y) T R Y I N G T O S A Y:
“London’s congestion charge (the £11.50 daily charge for driving a vehicle in central London) demonstrates how modern technology can seamlessly and without friction impose a tariff on people when crossing from one area to another.”
D O E S IT S T A C K U P?
- Border controls are a lot more complicated than the congestion charge. While they both involve imposing a fee on a vehicle crossing from one area to another, vehicles carrying goods through border controls can also be subject to physical checks as well as rules of origin regulations.
- Although The Troubles are ostensibly history, dissident terrorist groups still operate in Northern Ireland - there were 58 shootings and 32 bombings last year alone. Installing the CCTV and automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) technology that makes the congestion charge so seamless would simply provide another target for terrorists. Last year former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Lord Peter Hain, warned: “The UK has said there will be no infrastructure on the border, that would be an obvious place for dissident groups to rally around and also to attack. It is highly foreseeable that dissident groups would seek to take action and that would include buildings.”
R E A C T I O N:
Johnson was accused of downplaying the significance of The Troubles in solving the border question. Labour MP Chris Leslie, a leading supporter of the pro-Remain group Open Britain, said Johnson “simply doesn’t understand” the border issue.
“To compare the border between two sovereign states, the UK and the Republic of Ireland, to the boundaries between different London boroughs is not only patently ridiculous but also shows staggering insensitivity and a stupefying ignorance of a conflict in which over 3,000 people died between 1969 and the signing of the Good Friday Agreement,” he said.
W H A T N E X T?
The European Union is set this week to publish its draft text of what the UK’s final Brexit deal will look like.
The document is expected to conclude that Northern Ireland would remain inside the customs union in order to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.
The British government has rejected such an approach as it would effectively split the UK and place a border in the Irish sea.
International Trade Secretary Liam Fox will today claim remaining in a customs union with the EU after Brexit would be “a complete sell-out of Britain’s national interests”.