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4 June 2018

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Brexit 'buffer zone' border plan unworkable - Anderson

"In essence, what Davis is proposing is to hide a harder border in the buffer zone. This shows the lack of clarity and imagination coming from the Tories on Brexit. This buffer zone proposal comes straight out of the Tory bluffer zone." - Martina Anderson MEP

The proposals put forward by the British government's Brexit Secretary David Davis on the creation of a buffer zone around the border do not address the issue of how do deal with the border in Ireland. 

Instead, what David Davis is essentially proposing is a second border on the island of Ireland; a Brexit border in addition to the partition border. 

This would reinforce partition and, as such, is totally unacceptable. It flies in the face of the Good Friday Agreement. 

The British government in all of its rhetoric around Brexit has committed itself to avoiding a hard border inIreland. That has been its public position and its ministers, from whatever side of the divided cabinet, have repeated this line ad infinitim. But it has been rendered effectively meaningless by the proposals brought forward by the Tories, such as the latest proposal from David Davis. 

The idea of creating a buffer zone ten miles from the border in order to facilitate trade post Brexit does not take into account the realities of the border. It ignores the fact that cities like Derry and Newry are on the border and are, for all intents and purposes, effectively cross-border cities. 

Derry in its totality would be in the buffer zone suggested by Davis. 

It would appear that the British government's Brexit secretary learned little about geography or the realities of border life from his fleeting, publicity stunt visits to the north. 

In essence, what Davis is proposing is to hide a harder border in the buffer zone. 

David Davis.

This shows the lack of clarity and imagination coming from the Tories on Brexit. This buffer zone proposal comes straight out of the Tory bluffer zone. 

It does not address how checks would be carried out at the border to maintain the integrity of the single market. It does not address how physical infrastructure and associated checks would be avoided. And it does not address how, people, goods and services would move freely across the island of Ireland. 

Nor does it make any mention of rights. Brexit is not simply about borders and trade. It will undermine and strip away many of the rights people take for granted. This proposal does nothing to offer any safeguards for those rights, including our fundamental democratic right to directly elect representatives to the European Parliament. 

What these proposals from David Davis do show, however, is that the British government, despite its public rhetoric, is acknowledging that the north of Ireland is different from Britain and requires a specific solution to Brexit. 

Davis and his cabinet colleagues, and cabinet opponents, and the DUP who are propping them up may like to think that the north is as British as Finchley but clearly they are accepting that it is not and are now preparing solutions and proposals to reflect that. 

The fact is that the people of the north voted to reject Brexit and the long-standing historic, political and social reasons mean that the north requires a specific solution to Brexit. 

David Davis, Theresa May and other Tories may call it whatever they want. We call it special status for the north within the EU and have put forward a clear case on how to secure it. 

All of this will undoubtedly worry the DUP who, to date, have swallowed the Tory rhetoric about a red, white and blue Brexit hook, line and sinker without any regard to how it may impact on people in the north. 

They continue to be happy with flag-waving nonsense about taking back control from a prime minister who is unable to control even her own cabinet. 

Now it appears that the British government is at last prepared to acknowledge and accept the reality of Brexit and what the EU and others have been saying about Ireland. Although they don't yet know how to do it, as they unworkable buffer zone proposal clearly shows. 

If the British government is serious about addressing the issue of the border then it need look no further on what it has already agreed with the EU - the backstop option. 

Despite public denials, the British government has already agreed a solution which would see the north being treated differently to Britain and would allow the north to remain in the customs union and significant elements of the single market. 

That is the way to avoid any hardening of the border. 

This option, which has already been agreed must be protected and implemented. 

Of course, the backstop is not a total solution to the challenges of Brexit. We want to see it built upon to include the entire single market. We also want to see rights protections put in place to ensure there is no reduction in the rights of the people of the north as a result of Brexit. 

That is what David Davis and his colleagues and opponents within the British cabinet should be working on instead of kite-flying exercises such as this latest unworkable proposal. 

Border Communities Against Brexit sign.

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