Boris Johnson: If a hard border is reintroduced, 95% plus of goods could pass the border without checks

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.

Boris Johnson has said the Government should focus on stopping the Irish border becoming “significantly” harder after Brexit and suggested that crossings of the frontier could be monitored by technology like travel between London boroughs.

The Foreign Secretary said “there’s no border between Camden and Westminster” as he suggested that goods crossing between the Republic and Northern Ireland could be subject to electronic checks, in an apparent reference to the congestion charge.

Further details of his thinking on the issue are contained in a leaked letter to the Prime Minister in which he suggests “it is wrong to see the task as maintaining ‘no border”‘ but instead the aim was to stop the frontier becoming “significantly harder”.

The letter, obtained by Sky News, suggested that “even if a hard border is reintroduced, we would expect to see 95% + of goods pass the border (without) checks”.

The document from the Foreign Secretary, entitled “The Northern Ireland/Ireland border – the Facilitated Solution”, accompanies a “concept note” that “draws on Foreign Office expertise”.

The leak comes a day ahead of the publication of the European Commission’s draft text for the withdrawal deal.

This will include procedures for putting into operation the “alignment” of Northern Irish regulations with the EU rulebook, which will be needed if no technological solution is found to keep the border with the Republic open after Brexit.

Whitehall sources insisted that there was agreement the task was not about “no border” but “it’s about no hard border”.

Mr Johnson’s comparison of the the Irish border to north London was dismissed as “willful recklessness” and “unbelievable” by Labour MPs.

Mr Johnson also said that the CBI business lobby group and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn were “wrong” to back a customs union with Brussels, as it would leave Britain a “colony” of the EU in a situation that would be the “worst of all worlds”.

Mr Corbyn’s initiative has set the scene for possible defeat for Theresa May at the hands of Tory rebels and Labour in an upcoming Commons vote on the Trade Bill.

But Mr Johnson told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “You can’t suck and blow at once, as they say, we’re going to have to come out of the customs union in order to be able to do free trade deals.”

And with the EU set to publish a legal document containing commitments to avoid a hard Irish frontier on Wednesday, Mr Johnson dismissed the suggestion that leaving the tariff-free customs union would see the erection of border posts on the island.

“There’s no border between Camden and Westminster, but when I was mayor of London we anaesthetically and invisibly took hundreds of millions of pounds from the accounts of people travelling between those two boroughs without any need for border checks whatever,” he told Today.

“It’s a very relevant comparison because there’s all sorts of scope for pre-booking, electronic checks, all sorts of things that you can do to obviate the need for a hard border to allow us to come out of the customs union, take back control of our trade policy and do trade deals.”

Responding, Labour anti-Brexit MP David Lammy tweeted “God help us all this isn’t just stupidity and ignorance but wilful recklessness”, while Paul Blomfield said it was “unbelievable”.

Mr Johnson’s border comments were mocked by Tottenham Labour MP Mr Lammy, who said on Twitter: “When I was a young boy we were told to stay away from the Troubles on the Caledonian Rd & marching bands in Regent’s Park. The Chalk Farm Peace Agreement has brought peace in our time. People can get the tube from Camden Town to Finsbury Park without being searched at the border.”

Sheffield Labour MP Mr Blomfield said: “Stumbling, bumbling borisjohnson compares north & south of Ireland with Islington & Camden on r4Today while trying to explain his frictionless border without a Customs Union. Unbelievable!”

Meanwhile International Trade Secretary Liam Fox became embroiled in a row with a former top official at his department over the Government’s Brexit plans.

Sir Martin Donnelly said leaving the customs union to strike free trade deals around the world was like “giving up a three-course meal for the promise of a packet of crisps”.

Sir Martin, who left his role as permanent secretary at the Department of International Trade last year, said any divergence from Brussels’ rules would deal a blow to British services which would not be compensated for through deals with nations such as the US.

But Dr Fox, answering questions after a speech in London, said: “It is unsurprising that those who spent a lifetime working within the European Union would see moving away from the European Union as being threatening.”

The International Trade Secretary said the UK could reach agreements with the EU as well as other nations.

“It is not a choice of one or the other. And, in any case, I think the UK Brexit process is, as we have all discovered, a little more complex than a packet of Walkers.”

With many thanks to: The Irish News for the origional story.

Draft text: North of Ireland may be considered part of EU customs territory post-Brexit

The carefully worded text will allude to a single regulatory space on the island of Ireland with no internal barriers
The carefully worded text will allude to a single regulatory space on the island of Ireland with no internal barriers
By Tony Connelly
Europe Editor

The territory of Northern Ireland may be considered part of European Union customs territory post-Brexit, according to a draft legal text to be adopted by the European Commission tomorrow, RTÉ News understands.

The carefully worded text will allude to a single regulatory space on the island of Ireland with no internal barriers.

This scenario would reflect the so-called “default” or “backstop” option contained in the December agreement between the EU and the UK on how to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.

According to a well-placed EU source, the draft text will allude to a single regulatory space with no internal frontiers, in order to give effect to the regulatory alignment backstop.

The draft text will also state that, under the backstop option, joint EU-UK customs teams will be required to apply checks on goods coming from the UK into the new regulatory space, but will not specify where those checks will take place.


The text will also say that the options preferred by the UK to avoid a hard border are also available, and that if agreement is reached on those options, then the above scenario would not apply.

Those options include avoiding a hard border through a future EU-UK free trade agreement, or through specific proposals made by the UK government.

The Irish Government has said it would prefer a hard border to be avoided via those options, but that in the meantime the third option – maintaining full alignment of the rules of the single market and customs union north and south – needs to be reflected in unambiguous legal language.

By contrast, Options A and B will not be reflected in binding legal language, largely because the UK has not fully spelled out how they would work, and because they relate to the future trade agreement rather than the withdrawal treaty.

The European Commission has in the past expressed scepticism that the UK’s preferred options – known as Option A and B – will work given the potential that they would undermine the integrity of the EU single market and customs union.

Barnier says open-ended Brexit transition ‘not possible’

Brexit and the Border: The Great Reckoning?
Minister: Good Friday Agreement will deliver soft Brexit
It is understood that the draft will not spell out that Northern Ireland remains in the EU single market. However, that will be implied by a series of annexes which will say that individual pieces of EU single market legislation “will be applicable”.

However, the text will have considerable detail on how the movement of goods north and south will be facilitate without any border checks.

Three separate well-placed sources have confirmed the general content of the draft to RTÉ News.

The far-reaching text is designed to give legal effect to December’s political agreement between the EU and UK on how to avoid a hard border in Ireland.

That political agreement provides for a “backstop” option in which the UK would agree to “maintain full alignment with those rules of the internal market and customs union which, now or in the future, support North-South cooperation, the all-island economy and the protection of the 1998 [Good Friday] agreement”.

The backstop is contained in Paragraph 49 of the so-called Joint Report, which was signed off on by the British Prime Minister Theresa May and the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on 8 December.

The draft document, however, is a “base” text which will be the subject of further negotiation between the British government and the EU Task Force, led by Michel Barnier.

The British government, and the DUP, are expected to fiercely resist any suggestion that Northern Ireland will be treated differently from other parts of the United Kingdom.

The text is essentially the outline of the overall Withdrawal Agreement under the Article 50 process.

According to the timetable, the Withdrawal Agreement should be concluded by October this year, so that it can be ratified by national governments and the European Parliament ahead of the formal exit date of 29 March, 2019.

As such, the draft, which is expected to be adopted by the College of EU Commissioners at their weekly meeting tomorrow, covers a range of so-called divorce issues as well as the Irish border question.

These include the financial settlement, EU citizens’ rights, the governance of the Treaty and a transition period.

The Irish border issue will be contained in a legally-binding protocol. There will also be numerous annexes governing the application of EU single market and customs rules on a range of areas.

Paragraph 50 of December’s Joint Report states that there will be no barriers against trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

However, both the European Commission and the Irish Government regard this as an “internal” UK commitment, and not a requirement of the EU.

For that reason, Paragraph 50 will not be reflected in the draft texte

With many thanks to: RTÉ News for the origional story.

Six of Theresa May’s cabinet ministers are members of a secret group the European Research Group (ERG) demanding a total break from the European Union

The head of the secretive European Research Group won’t reveal which senior ministers are members of the hardline anti-EU group. Why not? Because the answer and the reach of the ERG leaves the Prime Minister looking like a Brexit hostage.

Suella Fernandes, ERG chair, being interviewed by Channel 4 News – Fair use.

Six leading members of Theresa May’s cabinet are paid-up subscribers of the secretive European Research Group, the hard-line anti-EU caucas of Conservative MPs who have serially refused to publish their membership list.

New data collected by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority covering the last year, show that the six cabinet members, along with the chief of staff and special adviser to the Brexit secretary, David Davis have each claimed £2,000 in parliamentary expenses for “professional” and “pooled” services from the ERG. Five other subscriptions from former Tory cabinet ministers and whips, plus the current chair of the ERG, means this group alone have claimed more than £32,000 from the public purse.

Michael Gove, the environment secretary, Penny Mordaunt, the newly-promoted defence secretary, David Gauk, the work and pensions secretary, Sajid Javid, the communities and local government secretary, Andrea Leadsom, the Leader of the House of Commons, and Chris Grayling, the transport secretary, have all used official expenses claims to pay for “ERG subscriptions” over the last 12 months.

Stewart Jackson, who lost his Peterborough seat in June’s general election, and is now chief of staff to David Davis at the Department for Exiting the European Union, also used his official expenses to pay for ERG services during the last years.

Private list
In September this year, during a live television interview from the lobby in Westminster on the back of an openDemocracy investigation into the group, the current chair of the ERG, Suella Fernandes, refused to say which ministers were members of her organisation.

The ERG’s membership is routinely rumoured to be around 80 MPs, with Eurosceptic cabinet ministers having previously signed up to letters that effectively mirror ERG objectives.

However, today’s revelation shows the group’s paid-up subscribers reach deep into the core of Theresa May’s administration, and have been seen as deeply worrying.

Hidden hurdle
One senior Whitehall official, who asked not to be named because he was currently involved in preparations for the next phase of talks with the EU’s negotiators, told openDemocracy: “2018 will be a difficult and critical year and those from Brussels we have to engage with, have already voiced concern that our future position could be clearer. But there will be added suspicion that this secretive group – and if they won’t publish who their members are and what they do, then secret is the correct word – represents a hidden hurdle by Brussels that the UK government has to jump over. This will hinder, not help, the prospects of a deal.”

Other data collated by IPSA show that 58 MPs have recently used taxpayers’ money to fund the ERG’s activities. Among the leading Brexiteers who have paid for ERG subscriptions over the course of the last two parliaments include Jacob Rees-Mogg, who is still being touted as a future Tory leader should May be forced out of 10 Downing Street.

The group is often described as a party-within-a-party of hardline Brexiteers capable of holding the prime minister hostage or removing her from office if she deviates from their stated aim of severing all ties with the European Economic Area, the single market, the European Court and the Customs Union.

The re-invented ERG
The Brexit minister and Wycombe MP, Steve Baker, is regarded as the most powerful figure linked to the ERG. Baker was the head of the group before he was promoted into the government. Though it was founded in 1998, Baker is credited with turning the ERG from a backwater of low-profile Eurosceptic malcontents into a powerful organisation capable of deciding the terms and merits of any deal with Brussels.

He has described any move towards a soft Brexit or any retention of links with the EU as “a vote for the UK to be powerless and poorer than we can otherwise be.”

Although he now holds no formal role in the group, restricted meetings of ERG members in Westminster have been addressed by Baker since June, with his speeches enthusiastically applauded.

openDemocracy has previously revealed that Baker took a £6,500 donation from the Constitutional Research Council to pay for an ERG event before Christmas 2016. We have also revealed that the CRC chairman, Richard Cook, founded a company in 2013 with the former head of the Saudi intelligence service and a Danish spy implicated in a controversial Indian gun-running case. Our research has also shown that Baker has previously accepted cash and foreign travel from a wide-range of groups, including the arms industry, and a number of American pro-corporate lobby groups.

Fernandes, who only became an MP in the 2015 election, took over as chair of the ERG in June this year following Baker’s move to David Davis’s department. She has described negotiations with Brussels over the terms of Brexit as “begging the EU for mercy”. She has told ERG members in texts sent on a highly-protected WhatsApp messaging group, that they should not forget the referendum was an “instruction to parliament to free the UK from the shackles of Europe.”

Channel Four News
In her interview with Channel Four News – which followed an investigation by openDemocracy which discovered over a quarter of a million pounds of public funds had been channelled to the ERG through MPs expenses – Fernandes refused to say how many government ministers were in the ERG.

Told repeatedly by the Channel Four News presenter, Krishnan Guru-Murthy that if her group took public money then the public should have a right to know, Fernandes looked uneasy. Resorting to awkward laughing, and clearly unsettled she replied, “The list of MPs is known to the ERG.”

Both Channel Four News and openDemocracy have repeated requests to Fernandes’ office for a full list of the ERG membership, its research, and the cost of its publically funded operations. No list has been provided.

Following complaints by MPs that public cash was being misused by the ERG because it focused on a single-issue, Brexit, and operated as a party-political organisation, IPSA recently carried out an updated review of its claimed research.

IPSA identified “party-political language” in some of the material produced by the ERG. However it concluded that because the ERG had been in existence before the EU referendum, and because “the vast majority of material produced was factual, informative” and not in conflict with IPSA regulations, no action was being taken.

However IPSA would not comment on the ERG continuing to keep its membership lists private and largely out of public reach.

Francis Grove-White, Deputy Director of Open Britain, said:

“It is illuminating, and deeply worrying, to see who is really pulling the strings of the government’s hard Brexit trajectory.

“The ERG are in favour of the most destructive Brexit possible: they want to tear up all our economic co-operation with Europe in pursuit of a low-regulation, race-to-the-bottom agenda that most people in Britain do not support.

“If Ministers are claiming taxpayers’ money as allowances to pay for membership fees of this group, then the public have every right to know exactly who in the Government is a registered ERG member.

“The ERG should publish this information immediately. If they have nothing to hide, they will have no problem doing so. If they do not make this information public, people will draw their own conclusions.”

The ERG was contacted by openDemocracy and invited to comment on the subscriptions of cabinet members. No reply was received.

Do you know where the Brexit dark money came from? Someone out there knows something about the DUP’s mystery £435,000 Brexit spending spree. It’s vital for democracy that we all find out.

We need your help to expose the DUP

Theresa May is desperately clinging to power, relying on the DUP, the hard-right party that has blocked same-sex marriage, and kept abortion illegal.

Worse still, they’re bankrolled by dark money – we’ve exposed the shady group behind their lavish pro-Brexit campaigning, but they’re still refusing to name their secret donors. Now they hold the balance of power at Westminster, it’s even more vital that we find out who their paymasters are.

With many thanks to: James Cusick, Open Democracy for the origional story

The signing of the 1921″ Treaty of Surrender” Fuck your British ‘Brexit’ shove it up your English ass

It’s interesting that the ‘Brexit’ talks should collapse this week on the issue of the British-imposed border on the week of the 96th anniversary of signing the 1921 “Treaty of Surrender”. The terms of this treaty subverted All-Ireland democracy and imposed the two partition states on the Irish people under the threat of “Immediate and terrible war. “ Brexit#

With many thanks to: Des Dalton President Republican Sinn Féin for the origional story.

The DUP do not speak for the majority of the people of the North of Ireland who voted to remain

The majority of people in the North of Ireland voted to remain

No ‘misunderstanding’ of Brexit text – DUP

DUP accuses Dublin of trying to change the Good Friday agreement unilaterally
DUP accuses Dublin of trying to change the Good Friday agreement unilaterally
The Democratic Unionist Party “had no misunderstanding” about the text of a UK-EU agreement on the Irish border, one of its MPs has said.

The Conservative Party was aware of the DUP’s opinion, said Jim Shannon – one of 10 DUPs on whose support the UK government relies on to stay in power.

On Monday, Brexit talks between the UK and the EU broke up because of DUP objections to border proposals.

The DUP does not want NI border laws to be any different from Great Britain’s.

Unionists tend to view with scepticism any proposal for harmonisation of rules on either side of the Irish border,

They are concerned such an approach may be the thin end of a wedge towards Irish unity.

Difficult days ahead as DUP says ‘no’
Why is the Northern Ireland border question so hard?
Long read: The hardest border
Reality check: How much UK-Irish trade is there?
DUP leader Arlene Foster spoke to Prime Minister Theresa May on Monday shortly after telling supporters she would not allow a Brexit deal that creates “regulatory divergence” between Northern Ireland and Britain, Reuters news agency reported.

A party source declined to reveal the content of the telephone call, but said the DUP was in continuing contact with Mrs May, added the agency.

Text ‘was agreed’

Disagreement over the post-Brexit operation of the Irish border is currently holding up trade talks, with the Irish government saying negotiations cannot move on until it has a firm, written assurance from the UK that there will be no physical border on the island of Ireland.

The DUP says it never assented to any of the wording which leaked out of the Brexit discussions, whether it be “no regulatory divergence” across the island of Ireland after Brexit or “continued regulatory alignment” .

Those words were meant to provide reassurance to the Irish government that, should the EU and the UK not be able to reach a trade deal, there would be a backstop that would guarantee trade across the border would continue pretty much as it does now.

It would mean Northern Ireland businesses adhering to the same standards and rules as their southern counterparts.

However, unionists tend to view with scepticism any proposal for harmonisation of rules on either side of the border.

They are concerned such an approach may be the thin end of a wedge towards Irish unity.


Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar said the British government had agreed the text of a deal which was satisfactory to his government on Monday morning.

However, he said it was evident that “things broke down and became problematic” by lunchtime.

Irish PM Leo Varadkar “surprised and disappointed”
The BBC understands the deal broke down after the DUP refused to accept UK concessions on the Irish border.

“We’re part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland,” Mr Shannon told the BBC.

“So when it comes to regulatory divergence which separates Northern Ireland, politically and economically from the rest of the United Kingdom, we cannot have that.”

“The referendum was very clear when it was held back in June 2016,” he said, referring to the UK’s vote to leave the EU.

“We’re all leaving together. We’re in it together, we’re leaving it together and I think the quicker we come to some sort of understanding with the Republic of Ireland, the better.”

Asked if there had been a miscalculation or a misunderstanding between the DUP and Mrs May’s government, Mr Shannon said the DUP’s stance had been very clear.


Citizen’s rights, the Irish border and money are the three big negotiation points
“There was no misunderstanding from our point of view,” he said.

“There were enough of those in the Conservative Party [who] knew our opinion.

“They understood where we were in relation to this issue and they withdrew the suggestion for an agreement which was put forward.”

The DUP has a confidence-and-supply arrangement with the minority Conservative government, which means Mrs May relies on them to support her government in House of Commons votes.

The Ulster Unionist Party’s chairman, Lord Empey, described the handling of the situation by the Tories and the DUP on Monday as a “shambles”.

He said there could only be two scenarios.

“Either the DUP (leaders) were not consulted in advance by the Government, in which case they are not as influential as they say,” said Lord Empey.

“Or, they were consulted but didn’t appreciate the full implications of the leaked document and were asleep at the wheel.”

The SDLP accused the DUP of being “terrible unionists” because they were “vetoing something that the London government wants” in the Brexit talks.

SDLP MLA Claire Hanna said that in their rows with the Tories over the Irish border, DUP negotiators were “cutting of their nose to spite their faces”.

“If the DUP have a better idea, let’s hear it,” she said.

With many thanks to: BBC NI for the origional story.

Stick your English Brexit up your English arse

I have nothing against the English, whether white, black, indian or asian, who live in England or anywhere else, and I have no problem with the great racial divides between the Anglos and the Saxons, to be sure, but I remain opposed to English sovereignty on any piece of Ireland, or, for that matter, on any other Celtic rock. That’s all. We love the English, we live with them, we fuck them, we have families with them, they break our hearts and we break theirs…we have affairs with them, we buy dinner for them (and far more often lately than was) and that’s great…that’s normal, but they just have to stop governing the island of Ireland in every way. Then there is no troubles.

Brexit presents a profound opportunity to break with England and form a good Union with Europe. This is a very good thing for all of Ireland’s 32 provinces.
What do you wish for? Border Guards and international boundaries to steal away forever the six Irish provinces to support the myth of the doddery Retards of the recalcitrant racist UK? And then, somehow, to blame poor bloody muslims for all the bad there is? “Celtic Warriors against Islam?” Oh, for fuck’s sake…what have they been drinking?

With many thanks to: Iain Mac Giolla Padraig