Irish border immigration: Is there a solution?

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Today on Twitter (where you can follow me @RealityCheckout), I had a short but sharp debate with an Irish citizen on the EU (unsurprisingly), and was asked how immigration with no border checks would work post-Brexit, if at all. So donning my thinking cap, I came up with what I think are two viable solutions to this problem. Comments and constructive criticism as always are both welcome.

Option 1: The Irish problem is the Irish problem

Okay, so not exactly an “it’s their problem” solution, but the title sounded good!

Pre-Brexit, or shortly after leaving, the UK Government negotiate a pact or treaty with the Irish Government to implement security and all the other relevant checks, including documenting those coming into Ireland, passing this information on to the UK. The UK pays the Irish for this solution, or agrees on some other terms beneficial to Ireland as remuneration for doing this work on our behalf, perhaps through reducing tariffs or increasing UK market access.

Option 1a: The Calais-style option

This would work in a similar fashion to option 1, but, with agreement, allow UK immigration authority to conduct its business within Ireland, at ports and airports directly. A similar agreement is already in place between the UK and France at the port of Calais.

Option 2: Incentive-reported intelligence

This option requires more work and system integration, but would be a great test in my opinion if it were to be rolled out nationally to control immigration within the UK.

If we are to assume that all current EU nationals will be registered, coupled with HMRC’s tax system and council tax registration, the State can keep tabs of who is here legally rather simply, perhaps with a more integrated IT system that flags anomalies — if it doesn’t already do so.

Looking then at access to migrants across the invisible Irish border, those signing up to work must have their identity documentation as is required anyway, so with checks in place, it’s rather a non-point to discuss it, but I shall do so anyway.

Let us suppose that an EU or non-EU migrant crosses the border, what will they do? Set up home? Get a council flat? Get a job? None of these will be possible, since all current migrants are fully catalogued and checks can be done on those people’s identities. Anyone who does not fit the bill after the implementation of a new immigration system has no right to work or settle in the UK. With that in mind, what would be the point in coming here?

Inevitably, some will try and game the system, but leading back to the option’s title, we could incentivise those in Northern Ireland to report illegal migrants by offering a monetary reward. Any false accusations can be written off pretty quickly — or immediately — due to everyone being registered.

This option is the most difficult to implement, and raises questions of stirring up racial hatred and xenophobia for those who walk, talk or act differently, and as an option should be kept at arm’s length for that very reason, however, it is an option.

But I digress. With no option to secure housing, money or work, there should be no reason for this to become an issue whatsoever, as it is only under Freedom of Movement and other relevant EU laws that immigration and the right to work and settle has become an issue. Non-EU migration and illegal entrants are still an issue, but this is not relevant to the Irish border immigration problem.

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