Open border in all our interests – Owen Paterson MP

Owen Paterson has a long held interest in Northern Ireland.

Owen Paterson MP
Owen Paterson MP

The North Shropshire MP was in the Shadow Cabinet of David Cameron in 2007 as Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland then during the formation of the Coalition Government in 2010, he was appointed to the Cabinet as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, where he remained until 2012.

This is his view on Brexit and how it will affect the border of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland:

“Since publishing its position paper in August, the UK Government has been unequivocal that it has no desire to impose a “hard border” between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland; it will maintain both the Common Travel Area and the Belfast Agreement.

“Northern Ireland does 87 per cent of its trade with the UK – 66 per cent in the Province and 21 per cent with Great Britain. Just five per cent of its trade is with Ireland and a mere three per cent with the rest of the EU.

It would be absurd for Northern Ireland to be cut off from the UK mark for the sake of that eight per cent, just as it would be for Great Britain to enjoy the opportunities of global free trade outside the Customs Union without having the Northern Irish economy do the same.

“We are key trading partners, with the UK receiving 13.9 per cent of Ireland’s exports and providing over a quarter of her imports. Crucially, only 1.6 per cent of Irish imports and exports run between the Republic and Northern Ireland; the overwhelming share of trade is between the Republic and Great Britain.

“Our two countries are – and must remain – close and supportive partners. I was deeply involved in our discussions to help the Republic of Ireland in her moment of need in 2010.

“We had no hesitation in providing some £7 billion for the bailout in 2010. At the same time, against the wishes of France and Germany, we were staunch defenders of Ireland’s right to set a low rate of corporation tax.

“In reality, the notion of a “hard border” at which all incoming goods are checked has been obsolete for decades. Transit times are being speeded up with modern technology. It would be little short of bizarre for the EU to go against this global trend and — especially given the economic and political incentives — certainly not something which the Irish Government should tolerate.

“The UK does not wish to see a hard border imposed; the Irish Government must be firm in telling the EU Commission that nor do they. The surest path to achieving that is with a comprehensive EU-UK reciprocal free trade deal with zero tariffs; I hope that the Taoiseach will argue very strongly for one. But deal or no deal, a sensibly-managed system of trusted-trader programmes and advanced electronic border technology can ensure continued, productive North-South and East-West co-operation.

“Like the successful Common Travel Area, the new arrangements can be a unique, British Isles solution, in the best interests of all our citizens.”

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