The World Trade Organization (WTO) has shot down a key Brexit scare story, confirming there is “nothing” in their rules which would require a so-called “hard” border between EU Ireland and the British province of Northern Ireland following a “No Deal” Brexit.
Remain campaigners who hope to overturn Britain’s vote to Leave the European Union as well as advocates for an ultra-soft “Brexit In Name Only” have long contended that massive concessions must be made to the European Union by the United Kingdom in order to ensure the Irish border remains open — despite the fact that it is regularly exploited by illegal migrants, people-traffickers, and organised criminals.
However, the prospect of a “hard border” — an expression which conjures images of a Berlin Wall running through Ulster, but would in fact probably involve only some light customs infrastructure, much of which could be virtual or located well away from the border itself — has been now been dealt a serious blow by the WTO, whose rules would govern British-EU trade in the event of “No Deal”.
“There is nothing in WTO rules that forces anyone to put up border posts,” WTO spokesman Keith Rockwell said while on a visit to Dublin, in comments reported by the Irish media.
“Someone has to bring a complaint and say that their interests have been hurt… The WTO will not intervene unless one of its members brought a case,” he added.
The NI border issue “amounts to an excuse to keep us entangled with the EU for fear of building a border that is never going to happen under any scenario whatsoever. That’s the truth, isn’t it?” Julian Lewis
— #StandUp4Brexit (@StandUp4Brexit) November 29, 2018
Both the British and Irish governments have promised they will not erect a hard border, so it has been far from clear where one would come from for some time.
Committed Brexiteers such as Jacob Rees-Mogg MP have suggested the issue be resolved by the British government simply informing Brussels that the United Kingdom will not build one, and to leave the European Union to build it themselves if they insist on it.
For the WTO’s part, Mr Rockwell was clear that the “black helicopters of the WTO will not descend” if London and Dublin elect not to construct any physical barriers.
“Will the WTO send its agents here to inspect? We do not have agents; there are 650 people in the WTO secretariat,” he explained, in comments likely to be interpreted as gently mocking of the more strident hard border fearmongers.
‘Britain’s FBI’ Reveals Soft Border with Ireland Exploited by Dangerous Criminals, Illegal Migrants, Traffickers https://t.co/3vOfFrDe1a
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) November 3, 2018
Contrary to popular belief, some Irish border infrastructure does already exist, including cameras and officials who carry out food inspections and monitor cross-border activity for illegal immigration and smugglers taking advantage of the differences in VAT and excise duties between EU Ireland and Northern Ireland.