In a recent Guardian report written by Henry McDonald and Lisa O’Carroll, there have been reports that Britain is looking to the Republic of Ireland to maintain its border controls in exchange for freedom of movement on the island of Ireland. Apparently, in exchange for no border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, the British government wants the Irish government to tighten up border security in its airports and seaports in order to secure the standard of immigration control that will be implemented following their exit from the EU.
Is Britain effectively asking Ireland to police their borders? It certainly seems like it. They claim that this security level will be more electronic rather than physical, but a wall is a wall, and they want Dublin to build it and pay for it. Sounds familiar? What also is concerning is the notion that if this plan was implemented, then people who would be eligible for entry into the Republic of Ireland may not be allowed into Ireland, so as to suit British immigration rules. Now we are dealing with a sovereignty issue rather than accommodating an international neighbour. Given the long history between both countries, could tensions arise in Ireland if there was a situation where freedom of movement was denied, especially in the interests of a non-EU state?
Britain seems to have a plan to continue its border controls while not having to increase its force of 7500 guards to match figures of fellow European states such as Germany (21000) or France (10000). And while Dublin will not be telling Britain how to control its borders, it must be firm when the negotiations are being in earnest. While on paper the idea of strengthening the external border of the common travel area [CTA] is a good one, the cost of such an idea must solely fall into the hands of the British Chancellor of the Exchequer. This is a British problem that must be addressed by the British alone. And Ireland cannot be seen as putting London’s interest over Brussels. But regardless of what arrangement may be made between Dublin and London, Brussels will have the final decision on any implementation. Ireland cannot negotiate any new treaty on exchange of intelligence with a non-EU member without getting approval from all the other EU member states. But Ireland shouldn’t have to fall back on this clause. It is in a stronger position than most imagine. There is no doubt that the fall in value of the pound has greatly affected Irish exports to Britain, but Ireland is open to new opportunities too in the form of potential businesses, banks and financial institutions worried about the uncertain future of being in an isolated Britain. The Irish government should be responsive to any British suggestions regarding this unique and messy situation, but it must also be firm in refusing to accept any terms that will disrupt the successful status quo or cause Irish taxpayers to foot the bill for Britain’s security. Ireland must work with their neighbour, but they also need to be mindful of the pros and cons.