Is Theresa May playing for time over Hard Border

Is Theresa May playing for time over Hard Border 

Is Britain’s mainstream media exacerbating and dramatising the confusion over Brexit with wildly illogical assumptions?


Few experts and media pundits seem to canvass the people with the most practical knowledge of freight distribution across the Island.


Many media commentators have speculated about the imposition of a hard border on the Island of Ireland and the disruption that will cause. Some have speculated that social unrest will follow, others that the imposition of new, untried customs checkpoints will take months even years to bed down and causes massive delays to trade in all sectors of industry. Others have posited that goods lorries should be able to pass between the two countries as easily as they pass through Swiss and Norwegian checkpoints.


The open border has encouraged the creation of all-island supply chains. Every sector of Industry is involved, food and drink, manufacturing, engineering and services are reliant on  this current arrangement as is their future continued survival . Dependency on cross-border trade is most notable in the agri-food sector.


However, there is a theory that there is method behind Theresa May’s apparent inertia in the Brexit negotiations. Is she buying time for a free trade deal, in order to avoid a backstop? Or is she sleep walking into a Customs Union or Single Market deal, for which Britain pays substantial membership fees but has no influence whatsoever?


Does it all hinge on Theresa May’s reliance on the support of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to maintain her slim Parliamentary majority. With the aid of DUP, no measures can be voted through parliament. The DUP is her backstop against Britain being forced into a general election. 


The Backstops with the DUP. However, the DUP could insist that Northern Ireland gets treated like the rest of the UK and not reduced to ‘backstop status’.

Will Theresa May be ever in a position to sell the DUP down the river? Would she want to? 


Shauneen McConville, director,  Belfast’s TR Logistics Group, also chairs the NI branch of BIFA. 


“The imposition of a hard border in Northern Ireland on so many levels is beyond comprehension and completely unrealistic,” says McConville.

There have been so many discussions and theories conceived to date regarding the Northern Irish situation, the most collectively discussed and agreed by both the EU and the UK government in December 2017, the back stop proposal.

The attraction of this arrangement, there will be no ‘hard border’ on the island of Ireland. Trade would flow freely without imposition nor customs control involvement’. 

McConville’s firm TR Logistics is also the logistics partner for Manufacturing NI (MNI) which is a campaigning organisation which works with member companies, workforce representatives, policymakers and regulators to challenge and encourage change in areas which impact on the cost of doing business.

In light of Brexit and its concerns, MNI has added its voice to 20 other Northern Irish business organisations to send a letter to the Prime Minister, Home Secretary and Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. The letter outlines serious concerns over the current availability of labour in Northern Ireland and associated migrant policies in a post Brexit era.

This issue has been serious enough to make local business organisations and representative bodies join forces on an unprecedented scale to request an urgent solution to a problem which could lead to the demise of many key industries here.

A pragmatic approach is needed along with a deeper understanding of what Brexit means for businesses within Northern Ireland, says McConville. It will take strong leadership to follow through.

The following organisations signed the letter to the prime minster; CBI N, Centre for Competitiveness, Construction Employers Federation, Federation of Master Builders Federation of Small Businesses Northern Ireland, Freight Transport Association, Hospitality Ulster, Londonderry Chamber of Commerce, Newry Chamber of Commerce NI Chamber of Commerce & Industry, NI Hotels Federation, NI Pork and Bacon Forum, Northern Ireland Bakery Council, Northern Ireland Food and Drink Associationm, Northern Ireland Grain Trade Association, Northern Ireland Meat Exporters Association, Northern Ireland Tourism Alliance, Quarry Products Association Northern Ireland, Retail NI, Manufacturing Northern Ireland and Ulster Farmers’ Union.

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