Varadkar rejects Davis’s hi-tech border solution

Posted By: April 26, 2018

  “As this article from the London Times shows, the Irish government is holding the line very well against any British attempt to re-establish a ‘hard’ Border.

 I was born and reared by the British-imposed Border that cruelly partitions Ireland.

London passed the Government of Ireland Act in 1920, dividing Ireland into two artificial units: Six Counties in the north east, and 26 Counties for the rest of the country, ‘Southern Ireland’ (even though County Donegal is the most northern County in the whole country).

Indeed, that damn Border partitioned not only my country but also my historic parish of Kinawley—leaving part in Fermanagh, one of the Six Counties in Northern Ireland, and the other part in County Cavan, one of the 26 Counties of the Irish Free State, which was named Republic of Ireland in 1949.

To me, therefore,  the Border became the very symbol and personification of England’s injustice in Ireland ( I say ‘England’ because one can hardly blame Wales or Scotland)”.—Fr. Sean McManus    

Jennifer Bray, Oliver Wright. The Times. London.Thursday, April 26, 2018

The Taoiseach has challenged new claims made by the British Brexit secretary that the border issue can be solved through technology.

David Davis told a Brexit committee in Westminster yesterday that the technology to deliver a near-frictionless border — including number-plate recognition, authorized economic operator systems, and electronic pre-authorisation — already existed and said the UK government had started talks with potential suppliers.

Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney, the tánaiste, dismissed the suggestion. “I am not aware of the existence of the technology that secretary of state Davis seems to believe exists,” Mr. Varadkar said. “We have always said that there cannot be a technical solution to the border challenge. It requires a political and legal solution, and that is what we have been working towards.”

Mr. Coveney said on a trip to Derry yesterday: “This is not going to be solved by technology and cameras and scanning systems and drones on the border.

“What’s required here is a backstop, which is a political agreement that is consistent with maintaining full alignment with the rules of the customs union and single market in the areas that are necessary to allow for the all-island economy to function, and north-south co-operation to function, and to protect the Good Friday agreement.

“That’s the commitment that’s been made by both sides, and now we’re looking for a legal text which reflects that.”

Mr. Davis said that the UK planned to submit a new “backstop” for the border. Last year, the Irish government hailed a “bulletproof” backstop plan that would effectively mean Northern Ireland would remain in the customs union if no other agreement were reached.

The UK has rejected this plan and six weeks of negotiations in Brussels have failed to break the deadlock.

Mr. Davis has described the backstop as a “reserve parachute” and said that “nobody sees that as the most desirable outcome.”

Negotiators were working on new wording for the backstop solution, he said. “We will come up with our own wording on it. We are working on that as we speak. Then we’ll have an argument about it, I’m sure.”

Mr. Varadkar said that he wanted to see the new backstop plan “if it exists.”

“I did see reports that the UK will put forward an alternative text to the Irish protocol to option c [the backstop],” he said. “We would certainly welcome seeing that alternative. That is exactly the kind of engagement we would like to see from the UK, but we have yet to see an alternative text put forward by the UK. We would like to see such a thing if it exists.”

Mr. Davis also suggested yesterday that the June deadline for finding a solution to the border may be “artificial” and that in reality it may not be solved until after the UK has left the EU. “We’re in the middle of a negotiation,” he said. “One of the things that happen in negotiations is people try to set up deadlines, sometimes artificial deadlines, to put pressure on one element of the negotiation which they think is in their favor. We’ve seen a little bit of that.”

Mr. Coveney said there was “nothing artificial about the commitments that have been made in dealing with the border issue comprehensively.” The Irish government was not asking for everything to be finalized by June, he said, but it did expect to see significant progress.

Mr. Varadkar told the Dáil: “It is our view that we need to see sufficient and substantial progress on Irish issues by June.”

The government has repeatedly said that the UK can avoid a hard border by staying in the customs union, but Mr. Davis seemed to rule this out. “I do not expect the solution to be an extension of the customs union,” he said. “I would view that on my part as a failure.”