High-tech hard border no better than checkpoints
Published 27/07/2016 | 02:30
Ireland's three key aims in the upcoming UK-EU divorce proceedings must be pursued by the Government like no other foreign policy goal in this State's history. It will be a long, uphill battle and our negotiators must be obdurate and single-minded.
The first aim can be summarised as maintaining our huge level of trade with Britain -which sees €1.2bn worth of business pass between the two islands each week - by helping to ensure our biggest trading partner keeps access to the EU single market.
That will be hard to do because any such deal must be negotiated with the remaining 27 EU states. And the big obstacle is Britain's insistence on curbing immigration from other EU states, which is seen as a core value for the other member states.
The second aim is the retention of the Common Travel Area (CTA) between Ireland and the British Isles, which has been in force since the 1920s. Hopes are high here as the CTA is older than the European Union in all its manifestations.
But problems with the CTA intertwine with the biggest goal of all for the Republic of Ireland. That is ensuring there can be no return of customs or identity checks on the 300-mile border which stretches between Dundalk and Derry.
The return of any form of check is simply unthinkable.
Following a first meeting in London yesterday with the new British Prime Minister, Theresa May, Taoiseach Enda Kenny again gave a welcome reiteration of the Government's total objection to a 'hard' border returning.
But, more worryingly, the Taoiseach also alluded to the possibility of technology being deployed to replicate old-style border controls. Such references are premature at best. Quite simply, we must veto any form of 'hard' border, whether it is done via high-tech means or old-style posts.