10 years on from the onset of the crisis we could take some time to take stock. The government is keen, as are many, to wipe it from memory – keep the recovery going. The recent undoubted recovery has softened memories for the most part. But if we forget the past we will sure as eggs forget the lessons of the past.
The recent release of new economic growth measures has prompted once again again a debate on regional, from which we can generally read urban versus rural, development in Ireland. To listen to some commentators you would imagine that beyond the M50 ring-road or beyond Blarney there is an economic wasteland, with those few people remaining in their 90s and an infrastructure barely out of the 18th-century.
This is one of the madder ideas floating around. But it has a close cousin – Ireland is propped up only by the EU and without its direct hosepipe of cash would collapse.
Much talk this day on a hard, wet, soft, chewy…ok not that one… border.
Tell me, harden this border will you, for me? Tell me where the border will be placed… The border is so twisty turny topsy turvey…
This is a tiny part of the border, in Louth. It cuts through motorways (zig zagging) and houses and farms and barns….
So, wheres the hard border going to be?
Here are some more fun and games.
- The UK doesn’t leave the Customs Union. By far the simplest. But the demented ideologues of Brexit see leaving the CU as the talismanic, totemic, ne plus ultra of Brexit. So that is a non starter
- A full hard militarised India-Pakistan, West Bank type border. Not going to happen.
- Ireland leaves the EU. Err no, thats a non starter.
- A united Ireland. Definitionally no UK EU land border in that case. This is a long way off so wont happen if at all before March 2019. So that is a non starter
- NI as part of the CU, but rUK not. Politically that would be a non starter for the DUP who are the tail that wags the westminster dog so that is off. Economically most NI trade is with the UK so thats that dead in the water.
- So some form of increased hardness over the existing border is going to happen.
- This can’t be done with electronic surveillance and IT alone. Leave aside the technical, legal and other challenges.
- A return to the days of spiked roads and hard customs posts would be a gift without parallel to the still active dissident republicans. So thats a problem
- Anything in between would allow for an increase in the massive smuggling that already goes on. Where now it is confined to fuel , this would expand to Every. Single. Thing. Presumably Brexit doesn’t mean “lets give more cash to ex IRA and UVF hoods who now engage in smuggling” .
- So expect a border zone of control, where there is much increased mobile customs and immigration, much more intrusive and engaged than now, increased disruption to the daily lives of those on and near the border. Thats going be popular.
Ireland has an opportunity to position itself as a leader in an emerging technology, or perhaps a reemerging one. All it takes is political vision, a willingness to face down some entrenched local vested interests and a desire to make a change. This of course means it wont happen, but we can dream!