Hard border ‘inevitable and harmful’

The return of a hard border between the Republic and Northern Ireland is “inevitable” and will disrupt trade and harm the economy, a leading economist has warned ahead of his lecture in Cork this week.

Philippe Legrain is the inaugural speaker at the first annual Longfield Lecture in Economics this Wednesday, hosted by the Department of Economics in UCC.

Mr Legrain, a senior research fellow at the London School of Economics, was formerly special adviser to the director-general of the World Trade Organisation and independent economic adviser to the President of the European Commission.

He will speak about the economic benefits of immigration in general and to Ireland in particular, setting it in the current context of Brexit, the Trump administration, the refugee crisis and the rise of anti-immigrant parties across most of Europe.

“If, as seems likely, Britain is heading for a very hard Brexit that would leave it outside the single market and the customs union, the return of a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland is inevitable. There will need to be customs controls to check that goods comply with the requisite standards, to determine where a good is deemed to originate, to ensure that the appropriate duty is paid, and so on,” he said.

Mr Legrain said there will also need to be immigration controls, because the UK government will want to ensure EU citizens who can freely enter Ireland do not slip into Britain across the border with Northern Ireland.

“All of that will disrupt trade, harm the economy, and destabilise Northern Ireland politics,” he added.

UCC economics lecturer Dr Declan Jordan said the open lecture was an opportunity for both economists and a lay audience to face the compelling economic and social issues of our time.

“Economics has been rightly criticised for not contributing to public discourse. We now have a choice — complain about experts being denigrated or we can engage. This is not economists talking among themselves — the free event is open to all,” he said.

The Longfield Lecture, Wednesday, March 22, at 5pm, in Boole 3 Lecture Theatre, UCC

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