Response to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee regarding the ‘Future of the Land Border with the Republic of Ireland’ Inquiry, submitted in November 2016.
UK Government ministers maintain with regard to Brexit’s impact on the Ireland-Northern Ireland border that there will be ‘no “hard” border with Ireland’ and that there will be no ‘return to the borders of the past’. There is certainly no appetite for the return of the fortified border posts which were so emblematic of the Troubles. But such claims also attempt to downplay the day-to-day impact which Brexit will have on the island of Ireland. A hardening of border does not necessarily involve the installation of guard towers and razor wire, it can be characterised by the imposition of administrative processes which curtail trade in goods and services, or investment flows, or which make cross-border travel more difficult for people.
This contribution evaluates the restrictions on movement which will be the subject of negotiation during the Brexit process. It outlines how different overall models for Brexit will have distinct implications in terms of the degree to which they harden the Ireland-Northern Ireland border. It also explains the limits on bilateral negotiations between Ireland and the UK in this context. In spite of the apparent desire on the part of both governments to maintain a more open arrangement than a post-Brexit UK would appear to be willing to grant the remainder of the EU, most of these issues involve EU competences and would have to be negotiated through Brussels.