For two years the EU and its friends have repeatedly claimed that there is no alternative to the illogical and dangerous Irish protocol agreed by Boris Johnson.
Quite a surprise, then, that the Irish government has now discovered an alternative in the case of solid fuel, where imports from the north will be allowed in over the land border without let or hindrance and will only be checked at sites further into the territory of the Republic, well away from the actual customs border (Dublin called on hypocrisy of new customs checks,’ November 13, see link below).
But beyond that particular case, a former Irish diplomat, Rory Montgomery, has revealed that after the 2016 Brexit referendum the Irish government was actively considering similar alternative arrangements for checking and controlling all of the trickle of goods crossing the border, until the EU insisted that despite the very special circumstances EU law must be rigidly applied as per normal.
Whereupon, “It became our firm position that any checks or controls anywhere on the island would constitute a hard border”.
That dictum was clearly nonsensical then — and is even more obviously nonsensical now, given the intensity of checks demanded by the protocol — so why on earth did both Theresa May and Boris Johnson decide to go along with it?
With the latter even confirming in Parliament that his own proposals did not involve physical infrastructure “at or near the border or indeed at any other place”.
Four months have elapsed since the Command Paper, ‘Northern Ireland Protocol: the way forward’, in which the UK government said that it stood ready to be a good neighbour and pass new UK laws to control the goods crossing the land border into the Republic and thus help protect the EU single market.
During that period it has become abundantly clear that the EU is not prepared to renegotiate even the smallest aspect of the protocol; so rather than waste more time the government should just go ahead and get those laws passed, and then invoke Article 16 of the protocol and suspend its operation.
Dr DR Cooper, Maidenhead, Berkshire
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