03 May 2018 | Various Sources | Hawkins Bay Dispatch
Pased 03 May 1921:
The Government of Ireland Act 1920 (10 & 11 Geo. 5 c. 67) was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. The Act’s long title was “An Act to provide for the better government of Ireland”; it is also known as the Fourth Home Rule Bill or (less accurately) as the Fourth Home Rule Act.
The Act was intended to establish separate Home Ruleinstitutions within two new subdivisions of Ireland: the six north-eastern counties were to form “Northern Ireland“, while the larger part of the country was to form “Southern Ireland“. Both areas of Ireland were to continue as a part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and provision was made for their future reunification under common Home Rule institutions.
Home Rule never took effect in Southern Ireland, due to the Irish War of Independence, which resulted instead in the Anglo-Irish Treaty and the establishment in 1922 of the Irish Free State. However, the institutions set up under this Act for Northern Ireland continued to function until they were suspended by the British parliament in 1972 as a consequence of the Troubles.
15 July 2017 | The Economist |
IT MIGHT just be Ireland’s most famous product. And indeed, the Guinness that is brewed at the St James’s Gate brewery in Dublin is shipped to Europe and across the Atlantic. But first the stout is transported north, in tankers that have become known as “silver bullets”, to be canned and bottled in east Belfast before returning to Dublin for export.
Diageo, the multinational company that owns Guinness, says that its silver bullets make some 13,000 border crossings a year.
The company estimates that even a short delay of 30 minutes to an hour for customs checks would add about €100 ($115) to the expense of each trip, costing it some €1.3m a year. If that happened, the price of Guinness might have to rise.
Guinness is not alone. The abolition of customs controls in 1993 and of security checks after the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 has led to the creation of what is in effect an all-island economy, with supply chains criss-crossing the border.
Bilateral trade between Ireland and the United Kingdom is now worth over €1bn a week. Most of that trade goes over the Irish Sea, but a fair amount crosses the border with Northern Ireland, especially in the agri-food sector. The UK exports more food to Ireland than to Canada, China, Japan, Russia, Saudi Arabia and South Korea combined.
Thus, besides Guinness, it is said that the ingredients of Bailey’s Irish Cream, another drink owned by Diageo, travel across the border three times before being exported in bottles. Roughly a third of the milk from cows in Northern Ireland goes south for processing, while much of Ireland’s cheese goes in the opposite direction.
Sheep and cows are frequently driven across the border for slaughtering. Economies of scale mean that it does not make any sense to have two processing plants on the island for most foods; that could be threatened by a hard border.
To complicate matters, food and drink have always been among the most sensitive products in the EU. Michel Barnier, the European Commission’s Brexit negotiator, has said flatly that after Brexit 100% of imports of animals and animal products from Britain will be subject to border controls.
If a putative free-trade deal with America were ever to come about, Britain might well allow the import of chlorine-washed chicken and genetically modified foods. Given the public’s hostility to these things, nobody in Brussels could possibly risk letting them cross into the EU by the back door of the Irish border.
02 May 2018 | Lauren Harte | Fermanagh Herald
THE sight of log-loaded lorries is a common one on Fermanagh’s roads, but if a solution is not found to the conundrum of the post-Brexit border soon, they could become a rarer sight.
Fermanagh’s timber industry employs a significant number of people in the county, and is very much a cross-border affair.
Last week the Timber Industry Brexit Forum, worried about the potentially disastrous affects of a hard border, handed in a report to the government calling for as soft as border as possible after the UK leaves the EU.
Balcas, one of the biggest employers in Fermanagh, has been a member of the Timber Industry Brexit Forum since its inception. CEO Brian Murphy said the timber industry was an all-Ireland one.
“Balcas has approximately 23,000 commercial cross border movements annually, and is very concerned to minimise the impact of any border checks that may arise out of the UK leaving the European Union,” he said.
In the report, ‘Brexit: Protecting Growth in the Irish Timber Industry’, the industry leaders suggested the post-Brexit border copies the Canadian-US or the Norwegian-Swedish model, such as interchangeable customs officials and mutual recognition of customs officials and police.
With regard to these suggestions, Mr Murphy said: “Balcas’ strong preference is for no interference with cross border movement of goods.
“Insofar as the shape of the solution incorporates this wish, and accommodates the Prime Minister’s stated intention to retain an invisible border in Ireland, then Balcas is not concerned with how the model is named.”
In the report, presented to Ireland’s EU commissioner Phil Hogan in Dublin last week, also warned that if the timber industry were to shrink it not only would have a significant impact on the economy right across Ireland, north and south, but could also lead to deforestation and impact the country’s environment.
13 April 2018 | Felicity Lawrence | The Guardian
In Northern Ireland, 56% of those who took part in the referendum on membership of the European Union voted to remain. For the majority, the freedom for people and goods to come and go without checks across the Irish border carries the momentous freight of national identity; it goes to the heart of the peace settlement. The UK government knows this – which is why the prime minister has promised a contradiction, that what will become the border with the EU will remain frictionless, despite also promising, to please Brexiteers, that Great Britain and Northern Ireland will be outside the customs union and single market.
The idea that you can have a frictionless, open borderwithout customs arrangements that match exactly (a union) or near as damn it (regulatory alignment) on either side is a myth. But while the politics of the border have been extensively discussed, the practical importance of the customs union is still not widely understood. While it may sound technical, what it controls is as basic as bread and milk. We discuss it in the abstract. We need to talk about the effect on people.
The Northern Irish economy depends on its agri-food exports. The lion’s share of the £1.15bn a year in Northern Irish exports to the EU flows across the Irish border, moving through one of the 275 or so crossing points along its 300-mile stretch. Small tracks, minor roads and EU-funded dual carriageways are used for the thousands of daily movements of people, lorries and animals back and forth. Forty percent of lamb reared in the north travels over to the south for processing, as does up to a third of Northern Ireland’s milk production. Food and drink is the north’s largest manufacturing sector and one in 10 jobs depend on it.
Cutting off the flow of food into Northern Ireland, meanwhile, is unprecedented outside of the circumstances of war. Just three supermarket chains feed Northern Ireland, to all intents and purposes – Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury’s supply 70% of the country’s grocery sales, providing an uninterrupted stream of fresh food sourced from across continental Europe through Britain. Think on that with the day-to-day impact on families in mind. Even a small increase in delays for inspection would put a spanner in works that have been finely tuned for speed, and could risk the prospect of food rotting before it was processed.
In a report this week, experts from the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health and City University of London dismiss the idea of a technological answer to the customs union problem, aired most recently by foreign secretary Boris Johnson in a radio interview, as a fantasy. At the moment food moves freely through infrastructure that is largely invisible. Even if the political consequences of a new, hard border were surmountable, the practical ones seem unmanageable.
A complex web of port operators, clearance agents and logistics companies currently makes customs declarations for shipments in and out of the EU by filling in online declaration forms for Revenue & Customs. The department was developing a new IT system before the Brexit vote. It needs to. Its creaking 30-year-old system has typically dealt with about 55m customs declarations a year; the new one was only designed to manage up to 150m. Now HMRC estimates that Brexit will create 255m a year. Like nearly all large government IT projects, it has run into problems.
Added to that, Revenue & Customs is in the throes of a major restructuring that is reducing its national network of offices to just 13 regional hubs, with large numbers of staff lost as a consequence. In some parts of the country, if a border force official wants to call on customs officers to go to a port to check a load, they will now be several hours’ drive away. How can that keep essentials flowing?
And even if there were to be some kind of electronic border, could it be properly policed? Checking that goods and their origins are what they say depends not on technology, but on people opening lorries and looking inside, at least some of the time. The control of food and livestock for safety and disease depends on those people being trained specialists. The Irish border has long been a hub for smuggling and EU quota fiddling. The Chartered Institute’s director for Northern Ireland, Gary McFarlane, fears that without proper checks there will be a surge in fraud and crime.
The idea that border checks could be moved to somewhere in the Irish Sea brings its own set of problems. Even if this were politically acceptable – which it is not, especially to the Democratic Unionist party – there is no physical infrastructure to deal with the scale of trade. More than 680,000 tonnes of food passes each way each year between Northern Ireland and mainland Britain, while the majority of Irish exports to the EU from its all-important agri-food sector also go to or pass through Britain. About 40% of Irish farm exports go to the UK. No British plans to build any such infrastructure or recruit enough employees to run it are yet evident.
The head of Dublin port is preparing to build enough new capacity for a fivefold increase in freight that will need to pass through border controls because of Brexit in 2019. That’s how seriously they are taking it. By contrast the UK government behaves in laggardly fashion. Given the likely real-life effects on millions of British people, isn’t this truly baffling? • Felicity Lawrence is a special correspondent for the Guardian.
As part of the Line 18 series on Sky News, David Blevins looks at the divisions that still remain in Belfast, 20 years after the Good Friday agreement.
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