- 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.
So, with Brexit still on the table we need to think about how we in Ireland are going to reorient ourselves from the UK. The UK seems set for a harder than a softer brexit. Recall that some of the chief ideologues in the brexit camp see a race to the bottom of regulation (including health and safety) as a desirable thing. So we may find that things are either less easily imported (tariff and non tariff barriers) or impossible (deemed unsafe or unhealthy) Whether willingly or not, we are going to have to move further away from our close relationship. Some suggestions below, with plenty to annoy everyone. Note : to forestall the inevitable screams, noting issues does not, necessarily, imply suggesting them as options. Nothing, we are told, should be off the table. So, heres some ideas to spark debate.
With each day that passes and the ramifications of Brexit become evermore entwined. leaving aside the damage that is being done to the UK’s economic and political reputation, we now see the stirrings, deliberate and calculated, of a pot of debate on a putative Irexit, an Irish exit from the European union. Like it or not this debate will continue, and to ignore it is neither politic nor possible. That it is ridiculous and risible is obvious to even a casual analysis, but we have seen with Trump and Brexit that mere foolishness does not deter a polity from a course of action.
So the Bauld Melanie, she who believes Ireland has only a tenuous claim to nationhood has waded in again. With the ludicrous suggestion from Ray Basset yesterday that we should leave the EU and cleave to Mother England, she now suggests Irexit as a way forward. It is indeed as she states a no-brainer.
Below the fold, a fisking, her words in Italics…
Brexit , now that is is really happening, is going to cause a major strain on this country. In that context, and accepting that we don’t want to steal their boots while the body is still warm, it beehooves Ireland to take every opportunity presented to take business from the UK.
Much of the discussion on gains to be made has concentrated on the financial services area. There is a natural synergy here – a lot of back and middle office activity in London needs to move, to keep within the Eurozone, and Dublin has a fair amount of attractions to these activities. In addition, there should be some potential for agribusiness to take up now UK based activities exporting to the EU. Much of the existing cross border trade comes from the agrifoods area. While nobody wants to destabilise the North, the reality is that the days of exporting material for further processing in the north then reimporting for another stage, these are gone. Agribusiness to the UK will also take a hit – upwards of a billion euro is at stake here. However, the UK also exports a lot of agrifood to the EU – 73% of its exports go to the EU. With even the softest barriers these will decline, and that represents an an opportunity for Irish agribusiness.
To its credit the Government and the state are aware of these issues and work is ongoing to mitigate the effects.
Behind all this however we have a sector which has evidenced potential for significant post Brexit export growth where the state, far from encouraging it is in fact strangling it. This is the higher education sector. Every non –Irish student who comes to study is an export. Exports of educational services from Ireland represent a potentially enormous market. In the UK some 400k students per annum enter to study, many in the area of English language but as many for longerterm degree and diploma studies. Ireland has approximately 12,500 students from outside the EEA in its institutes of technology and universities. Some 32,500 are in areas such as English language or private colleges. This is a large body of exports. It is responsible for approx. 1.75b in value added per annum
Two strangulations exist. First, we have a dreadful reputation in the English language school area. Despite this the department of education and skills has yet to fully implement its own recommendations and to put in place a statutory framework around quality in the area. It remains essentially self regulating, and we know that that is a system which ultimately fails. Until these schools are regulated we cannot grow them in confidence.
Taking the state related bodies an even more bizzare issue hobbles these. In the financial crisis a regulation known as the Employment Control Framework was put in place on all universities and Institutes of technology. This in effect had a dual effect – it controlled overall numbers of staff and also controlled the distribution of staff (academic and professional) as between grades. The ECF, as it was known, was implemented for the 2011-2014 period. Yet, as we come towards the middle of 2017, it is still being implemented. It is being implemented due to the lack of the Department of Educatin and Skills , again, agreeing a new framework with the universities. As a consequence, universities and institutes of technology cannot grow other than by non exchequer funds. Willy nilly, in the absence of a serious commitment by the Department of Education and Skills (perhaps it should be renamed the Department of Primary and some Secondary Education) as to a stable financial system for higher education, the sector has moved decisively from state to non state funding. This is most evident in the university sector. Thus my own institution, TCD, in 2015-6 , obtained 138m from the state ( HEA block grant, free fees waivers and state research funds awarded) , 38% of total income . TCD is probably on track to have 25-30% of its income from the state in the medium term, based on the trajectory of the last number of years. UCD in 2015 obtained just over 30% of its income from the state. Over the last decade state funding has declined by 25% while numbes of students have gone up by 25%. But the state remains , via the HEA, which provides less then 15% of income, the arbiter of not just staff numbers but staff deployment.
This strangles any opportunity post Brexit to grow. More students need more resources, and dismay some as it might, higher education is a environment where staff, costly staff, are needed. But if staff cannot be hired, then the system cannot grow. Exports are choked off. This makes no sense.
Published as a column in the Irish examiner
A very common statement being made now is “well, the UK is Ireland’s largest trading partner therefore…” . Usually this then segues into why we should irexit/cleave to the mother ship of the UK/ act on their behalf as they walk from the EU etc.