Monday 23 September 2019

Technology that doesn't yet exist part of Brexiteer Border 'solution'

Jacob Rees-Mogg was in Whitehall, London, to discuss Brexit proposals yesterday. Photo: PA
Jacob Rees-Mogg was in Whitehall, London, to discuss Brexit proposals yesterday. Photo: PA

Shona Murray

Solutions for the Irish Border offered by British Brexiteers include technology that has not been invented yet.

The Irish Government has rubbished an alternative Brexit paper set out by Eurosceptic splitters in the UK, with some sources dismissing it as "rehashed", "reheated", "factually inaccurate nonsense".

Tory rebel Brexiteers from the European Research Group (ERG) issued a 19-page document claiming to outline solutions for the Irish Border.

The document also offers its version of a plan for future trade relations between the UK and EU, as well as the rest of the world.

"As far as the Irish Government is concerned, we understand the paper is just a reheat of various views and proposals that have already been judged inadequate or unworkable", said a spokesperson for the Taoiseach.

"The position of the Irish Government is that paper has no standing whatsoever in terms of the UK government's position," he added.

The central criticism from Dublin and Brussels is that it contains no workable ideas on how best to maintain the status quo on the island of Ireland.

The document relies on the use of future technology to avoid the need for the related customs and regulatory checks that will ensue if a hard-Brexit outside the single market and customs union materialises.

"It's frankly crazy stuff, from a bunch of crazies, that's been rehashed and is basically factually inaccurate nonsense," said an Irish source.

A lot of the detail on how the Border issue can be managed relies on technology that doesn't exist, as well as electronic customs declarations, and "trusted trader" registers for big businesses.

These have been previously roundly rejected as non-runners by the EU and Ireland, and it had been considered that such ideas had long been put to bed.

The document also castigates the European Commission for "taking advice" on "Irish" issues from Dublin alone, in spite of the fact that the UK government speaks for Northern Ireland.

"It is now accepted that the European Commission has made a major error in taking advice on matters relating to the island of Ireland almost solely from Dublin," the document states.

In the UK, Brexit-supporting MPs in Theresa May's party publicly pledged support for her yesterday after reports of a plot to oust her.

Mrs May has faced persistent talk of a leadership challenge - which has weakened her as she struggles to strike a deal within her party and also with the European Union.

About 50 of the European Research Group (ERG) of Brexiteers met on Tuesday night and openly discussed Mrs May's future, the BBC reported. It quoted comments from those at the meeting, such as "everyone I know says she has to go", "she's a disaster" and "this can't go on".

But whatever was said in private, the leaders of the group said publicly they still want her to stay on.

"The policy needs to be changed but I am supporting the person," said Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of the ERG.

"Theresa May has enormous virtues, she is a fantastically dutiful prime minister and she has my support - I just want her to change one item of policy."

Mrs May's spokesman said the prime minister would fight any attempt to oust her, adding that the British government was focused on taking forward her so-called Chequers proposal, which he described as the only credible plan for Brexit.

The Chequers proposal calls for free trade of goods with the EU and remaining in the single market for goods; and accepting EU-made regulations on these products.

Eurosceptics say that this amounts to Brexit in name only. Both Brussels and Dublin say they are not too optimistic that an EU meeting in Salzburg next Thursday will deliver much progress.

The UK is yet to draft its version of the Irish 'backstop' guaranteeing the status quo of no hard border on the island of Ireland.

Irish Independent

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