An Article written by Myles Power – Former EU Policy Adviser on Constitutional Affairs, Legal Affairs and Transport
The Principle issue relating to the constant defeat of the Withdrawal Agreement is the insistence by the EU that there needs to be border controls between Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland, post Brexit. The technical wording of the draft Withdrawal Agreement reads –
‘…maintaining full alignment with those rules of the UNIONS INTERNAL MARKET AND CUSTOMS UNION which, now or in 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’
In English this is saying that Northern Ireland will remain in the Customs Union and the Internal Market in order to maintain frictionless movement of goods, however this will then effectively leave Northern Ireland which is part of the United Kingdom separate and a colony of the European Union. If Northern Ireland is to follow the United Kingdom and fully leave on the thirty first of October there has to be a system in place in order to ensure that there is a check on the movement of goods without the implementation of a hard border.
Well there is a mechanism available that was passed in Strasbourg in March 2019. This is the ‘Electronic freight transport information’ Regulation (https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX%3A52018PC0279). Whilst this Regulation concentrates on growth and competitiveness of the Union economy, the functioning of the internal market and the social and economic cohesion of all regions of the Union, in my opinion the Regulation could be amended to include third party countries (which the UK and Northern Ireland will become) in order to facilitate the smooth movement of goods without being a part of the Internal Market or the Customs Union.
In summary this Regulation is looking to digitalise the enforcement tools that are essential in order to free up enforcement capacity, reduce unnecessary administrative burdens on international operators and SME’s and detect fraudulent practices. The EU calls this digital smart enforcement which will lead to quicker and more efficient detection of infringements.
So when on the third of February 2019, Sabine Weyand, the EU Deputy Brexit Negotiator, states that ‘Technology cannot yet offer an alternative arrangement to the backstop’ (https://www.politico.eu/article/advanced-technology-cannot-replace-backstop-eu-says-uk-brexit-withdrawal-agreement-ireland-border/) I have to disagree, with a little bit of tweeking to the Regulation covered earlier there is no need for the back stop. The EU just needs to stop being so narrow minded and look at its own Regulations.