20 March 2018
The Brexit dilemma: The Irish border: a technological border could mean an all Ireland surveillance society?
- Phillipa Whitford, SNP has pointed out: simply having a camera on a pole ends up being a defended camera on a pole, which could end up being a patrolled defended camera on a pole.
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"RECALLING that the Joint Report from the negotiators of the European Union and the United Kingdom Government on progress during phase 1 of negotiations under Article 50 TEU on the United Kingdom's orderly withdrawal from the European Union of 8 December 2017 outlines three different scenarios for protecting North-South cooperation and avoiding a hard border;
HIGHLIGHTING that discussions on the other scenarios may continue to be pursued in parallel, but that this Protocol is based on the third scenario of maintaining full alignment with those rules of the Union's internal market and the customs union which, now or in the future, support North-South cooperation, the all-island economy and the protection of the 1998 Agreement, and that it applies unless and until an alternative arrangement implementing another scenario is agreed"
The favoured UK solution is a technological invisible border which House of Commons Select Committee on Northern Ireland report: The land border between Northern Ireland and Ireland (pdf) found to be "aspirational" :
"The Committee has heard numerous proposals for how the UK and the EU could ensure customs compliance without physical infrastructure at the border. This is currently the case for enforcement in relation to fuel, alcohol and tobacco. These proposals address the question of compliance through mobile patrols, risk analysis, data-sharing and enforcement measures away from the border. However, we have had no visibility of any technical solutions, anywhere in the world, beyond the aspirational, that would remove the need for physical infrastructure at the border." [para 82]
The only way a technological border could be created is to set up an all Ireland surveillance state. Boris Johnson's reference to the London congestion area scheme is fanciful, this only tells you the vehicle number and its owner - it does not tell you who is driving the vehicle and what is in it. The former question could be resolved if a facial image of all drivers in Ireland are collected like at airports, but then what if a friend or relative is driving it? What is in the vehicle is far more problematic. An airport style scan for prohibited goods would constitute a "hard border" and not cover other goods or material.
And how do you tell a teddy bear from a smuggled sheep! There is also the problem of poles big long things with cameras on top. They may be OK in London but they will be seen as somewhat problematic on the 300 border crossings in NI. As Phillipa Whitford, SNP has pointed out: simply having a camera on a pole ends up being a defended camera on a pole, which could end up being a patrolled defended camera on a pole.
See also: Ireland says Brexit border deal legally firm, DUP says not resolved(euractiv, link)
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