Britain’s ‘buffer zone’ border proposal ‘bonkers’

John McGrane
John McGrane

Leaked British plans to create a 10-mile “buffer zone” around the border have been described as “bonkers”, “fantastical”, and “like something out of Alice in Wonderland” by both British and Irish Brexit experts.

The British-Irish Chamber of Commerce, Labour, Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, and the Liberal Democrats criticised the British government’s plan despite saying that, for the first time, it also shows that London accepts that the North must be treated differently to the rest of the UK.

In one of 10 policy options set to be outlined to the EU at a crunch summit on June 28 and 29, British Brexit secretary David Davis has proposed creating a new 10-mile “buffer zone” around the border.

He also suggested giving the North dual EU and UK status as a way to overcome the ongoing difficulties in ensuring a soft border while allowing Britain to leave the EU.

Downing Street sources have claimed the potential plan, which was leaked to The Sun newspaper, provides a clear blueprint for how the current stand-off over the border can be overcome.

However, despite the positive prediction, the move has been ridiculed by experts in both Britain and Ireland who said it is entirely unworkable and underlines the UK government’s failure to form a coherent Brexit plan two years after the country voted to leave the EU.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio’s News at One programme, British-Irish Chamber of Commerce director general John McGrane said the move is “bonkers” and will fail to address the issues at the heart of the stand-off.

“All that happens in some sort of dual territory zone is that business that employs people will have to comply with double regulations and more costs means less jobs,” he said.

 

The business expert’s view was shared by Fianna Fáil Brexit spokeswoman Lisa Chambers, who told the Irish Examiner the buffer zone is “unworkable” as it would amount to “two borders not one”, and questioned if the 10-mile plan is based on anything “or did he just pick it out of the sky?”.

Ms Chambers, whose views were repeated by Labour leader Brendan Howlin and by Sinn Féin, said the buffer zone plan shows the British government “is under pressure to bring something to the June summit” in order to address “their internal civil war, because that is what this is”.

However, she added that one positive from the potential plan is that the British government is now accepting that the North may need to be treated differently to the rest of the UK.

A spokesperson for Taoiseach Leo Varadkar did not respond to a request for comment, while a Department of Foreign Affairs spokesperson said Britain “must engage in a more detailed way” on the Brexit negotiations.

In Britain, the potential plan received a similarly negative response, with the Liberal Democrats describing it as “like something out of Alice in Wonderland”.

Labour MP Chris Leslie, who is a supporter of the Open Britain campaign against a hard Brexit, added: “If there was an award for coming up with unnecessarily complicated and convoluted solutions to self-inflicted problems, David Davis would win it every year.

“The solution to this dilemma is staring David Davis in the face: The UK as a whole must stay in the single market and the customs union.”

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