“MaxFac” will solve the Irish question and ensure we leave the Customs Union

“MaxFac” will solve the Irish question and ensure we leave the Customs Union

Endless scratching of heads, hot towels and hours of Sir Humphrey’s precious time and the answer was there, under the collective noses of No. 10. MaxFac works, given the correct technology and policy decisions – and what’s more, an interim solution can be ready for March 2019, whether or not there is a transition period, whether or not we have “deal or no deal”.

Given that all of the information on which this assertion is based is in the public domain, one wonders why the civil servants haven’t revealed this inconvenient truth to the Prime Minister. Why it is not being enthusiastically pursued by M. Barnier and the Irish Prime Minister. We can only speculate what motives lurk within these circles, but I think we know.

A new paper has just been published by Leave means Leave, setting out – comprehensively – how a technical solution would remove the perception of a border for the movement of goods between the Republic of Ireland and the UK including Northern Ireland. It outlines why the Common Travel Area may logically continue and it is endorsed by a former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and the DUP.

The paper proposes the use of existing pre-notification schemes such as the WTO and the EU Approved Economic Operator (AEO) scheme and special provisions including “trusted trader” for SMEs. All of these are currently operating and are tried and tested.

The tried and tested procedures are backed by modern technology which itself is in use in such places as the Switzerland/EU border, Canada/USA border and, in particular, the Norway/Sweden border. What is more, it is relatively cheap.

The net effect of all this in respect of the movement of goods and agricultural products is that the Northern Ireland/Republic of Ireland border becomes a non-entity in practice. It becomes a point of data collection rather than a border although, of course, there will inevitably be a border – as there is now for tax purposes and in terms of currency.

Since these processes and policies operate internationally, they are also fit for purpose for the border between the UK and the rest of the EU. The World Bank reported recently that the level of physical inspection of goods transiting borders between developed countries is around 2% on average and in Ireland it is only 1%. When the UK leaves the EU Customs Union, why should it be any different between the UK and Ireland or for that matter the rest of the EU? This is a question for the EU not for the UK.

As for the Common Travel Area within the British Isles, there is no reason why this should not continue. By a nearly one hundred year old treaty, the ability of Irish citizens to travel, reside and vote has been recognised. There is certainly no reason why travel between Northern Ireland and the Republic should not continue after Brexit. Neither is a member of the Schengen Zone, both check the passports of incomers from the EU (and vice versa) as per the rest of the world and therefore the EU need have no fear of leakage.

Both goods and people can be “documented” at the point of departure/destination, not at a border.

The paper demonstrates how the UK Customs System will be ready by March 2019 with or without a transition period and how a new system is on the way.

The earlier that business is aware of the direction of travel, the better, so that business can plan and have confidence to invest. Delay is damaging and prevarication is seen as incompetence, after all the Government has had two years now to set out its stall for the future of post-Brexit Britain and has signally and scandalously failed to do so.

Most importantly, Brexit cannot be fulfilled without the UK leaving the Single Market, the Customs Union and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. That is what the democratic majority of the people of the UK voted for in the referendum. Three quarters of the constituencies in England and Wales voted for it and two thirds of the constituencies in the UK as a whole. That is what Parliament itself voted for in triggering Article 50. That is what 85% of the electorate voted for in the last election in line with the manifestos of the Conservative Party, Labour Party and UKIP. A full seventy percent of Conservatives want to just leave the EU.

If, in the face of an utterly callous, deeply self-serving campaign by the establishment of this country we were forced to renege on these commitments in complete contempt of the people – not least in the face of practical solutions to the problems presented – the bond of trust between the people and our overlords would be broken with incalculable consequences for democracy and social cohesion. For the Tory Party, it would see a generation of mistrust.

For the unelected House of Lords, packed with vested interests, to dictate terms at variance with the democratic will is outrageous and will see the demise of the Upper House. To be working in concert with the EU and a fifth column in the Commons is tantamount to treachery. It is now that the Prime Minister must be true to her word and set out clearly and conclusively the path to taking the UK out of the Customs Union, Single Market and ECJ once and for all.