Several years on and we sit waiting to hear our fate. Will we leave the EU as an independent nation or as a vassal state.
The current rhetoric is that our options are limited by the practicalities of maintaining a frictionless border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. It would seem that the EU has weaponised the concept and intends to beat us to death with it.
One has full sympathy for the people of Ireland and their wish to ensure that there is no return to the hard border of the times of the troubles. The issue arises because goods flowing into Northern Ireland from the UK may not have had customs duty applied for the EU. As the UK will have different tariffs from other countries this could compromise the integrity of the EU single market by providing a route to smuggle goods into the EU without the correct duty being paid. If no free trade agreement with the EU were in place this could also be true in the opposite direction allowing goods from the EU into the UK.
If the UK had a free trade agreement with the EU then this would be less problematic
And so some method of controlling goods crossing the border is required. In order to achieve this the UK has suggested that goods can be electronically tracked in order to negate the need for a hard border. The EU is not completely happy with this arrangement and prefers that Northern Ireland remains within the EU customs union and a border is created in the Irish sea to require all goods flowing into NI to be customs cleared. Essentially this would mean that Northern Ireland is annexed by the EU and becomes a powerless region that follows EU laws with no influence and could be prevented from importing goods from the rest of the UK. I’m pretty sure the EU raised a big issue with Russia when they annexed Crimea a few years ago.
There is, and always was, a simple answer to the Irish border but would allow a border to be avoided. If Ireland was treated as a special case it could allow goods from the UK and EU to come in and move across the border. If goods are then exported to the UK or the EU then they may need to be customs checked on their way in but this could be made very simple. The integrity of the single market is preserved and the problem is no more.