Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
  2. Brexit
5 February 2018updated 24 Jun 2021 12:26pm

To some Leave ultras, a hard Irish border is a price worth paying for the “correct” Brexit

Continued co-operation in areas including security and counter-terrorism may mean that a hard border in Ireland is a compromise that the EU is also willing to make. 

By Stephen Bush

It’s make your mind up time: the cabinet has to decide what form of customs relationship it will seek with the European Union.

Downing Street’s position is that while we will not be part of a customs union with the EU a la Turkey we will be part of a “customs arrangement”, which is pretty typical of the Theresa May approach to Brexit: make a lot of noise, then agree to the same deal but with a synonym in place of the offending word. See the transition (sorry, “implementation”) period, the deal over the Irish border, the divorce bill and so on.

The difficulty for the government now that is that while most of the Brexit ultras have been bought off so far by running offending documents through a thesaurus, one politician who has, whatever his other faults, always understood the implications of the government’s position is Jacob Rees-Mogg, now head of the European Research Group. Simply calling the new arrangement “a customs partnership” might not be enough to keep the Brexiteers on side.

That said, Leave ultras might already be too late. As far as customs go, the British government has already agreed a very close degree of alignment with EU regulation if its promises on the Irish border mean anything. That said, Leavers may think that, at this point, one more broken promise is a price worth paying for the “correct” Brexit. There is also a view in Leaver circles, and not one entirely without foundation, that come the crunch, continuing co-operation in security, counter-terrorism, scientific research and numerous other areas will mean that a hard border on the island of Ireland is a price that most EU member states will be willing to pay. If it’s not, then “no deal” might still be on the table.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. A weekly round-up of The New Statesman's climate, environment and sustainability content. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A weekly dig into the New Statesman’s archive of over 100 years of stellar and influential journalism, sent each Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.