The British Prime Minister, Theresa May has said that she doesn’t want the borders of the past on the island of Ireland. She, like many, keeps saying
“But we’ve had a common travel area between the UK and the Republic of Ireland many years before either country was a member of the European Union.”
BBC News, 25 July 2016.
Whilst she most certainly is correct about the past, what seems to have escaped so many people is that the situation will have changed. Before 1973 neither was a member of the EU, post 1973 both are. Therefore freedom of movement still easy. After a UK exit from the EU, it is a different situation completely. There will be an EU external border along the Ireland/Northern Ireland border.
Until the outcome of any negotiations between the EU and the UK, we have to assume that the normal rules for entering the EU from a non-EU country will apply. Helpfully, the EU has a page full of explanations about this on its website. You can find it here.
The EU makes it clear that you can only enter the EU legally from a non-EU country at designated crossing points and during the hours of opening. I must admit that I am a bit at a loss as to how this will be achieved along the Ireland/Northern Ireland border. It has its many twists and turns. Have a look at the border around the main Dublin-Belfast road near Jonesborough as an example.
Where will the designated crossing points be? How secure will the border be?
Perhaps a redrawing of the border along the main road will be the solution, or perhaps Jonesborough will move from the UK into Ireland?
It’s not just the movement of people that is the problem, it is the movement of goods.
Even when there was a common travel area between the UK and Ireland, there were still customs checks until the early 1990s. Where will these be?
Looks like there will be a lot more work to be done to ensure that Mrs May’s dream of no borders of the past will become a reality. Perhaps the simplest way for there to be no border between the two jurisdictions on the island is to get rid of the border in its entirety, for the six counties of Northern Ireland to rejoin the 26 in the Republic and for Ireland to be one again.