White Paper confirms CTA, but .....

White Paper confirms CTA, but …..

Pinning down the realities of the British government’s Brexit approach can be a bit like trying to nail porridge to a wall. Issues pertaining to the border across the island of Ireland are dealt with at some length and in considerable detail in the White Paper, and even get an appendix of their own.

It recognises that 60% of Northern Ireland’s exports to south and so do about 14,000 commuters a day.

“We recognise that for the people of Northern Ireland and Ireland, .. When the UK leaves the EU we aim to have as seamless and frictionless a border as possible between Northern Ireland and Ireland, so that we can continue to see the trade and everyday movements we have seen up to now.”

That could be taken to mean that the British government does not intend to have customs controls on north-bound goods. Then there is the CTA (C0mmon Travel Area): the White Paper affirms its continuity which can only mean that there would be no checks on people moving from south to north.

“The CTA (C0mmon Travel Area) is a special travel zone for the movement of people between the UK, Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands…. We will work with the Northern Ireland Executive, the Irish Government and the Crown Dependencies to deliver a practical solution that allows for the maintenance of the CTA, while protecting the integrity of the UK’s immigration system.”

But here’s the rub: if you have people and cars and all sorts of buses and huge trucks coming north over the border in their thousands every day, how can you possible ‘protect the integrity of the UK’s immigration system’?

One method, widely discussed in the weeks after the Referendum, might be to keep the border open but impose tight immigration controls to catch the ‘bad dudes’ at points of entry to Great Britain. However, this would seem to be precluded by the promise that the CTA will allow “people  move freely between the UK and Ireland, north-south and east-west.” In any event, quite explicit commitments were made to unionist MPs in the course of the Article 50 debate that controls would not be imposed between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

We don’t have the answers. But we will have quite a few more questions.