All at sea.






Professor James Anderson in the Belfast Telegraph “Brexiteers are holding NI to ransom” provides an interesting viewpoint on what he sees as the menu of options relating to Northern Ireland and GB trade with the Republic of Ireland post-Brexit. However, his consideration appears to be only partial, and incomplete.

Here are two key limitations:

  1. Professor Anderson attributes all the ill-will in the Brexit negotiations to one side only; a combination of the UK government and the DUP. The sequence however has been that it is the EU which has ruled out any consideration of the London government’s outline proposals regarding a frictionless border. Of course, there are flaws in the UK proposals but surely, presented as the basis for dialogue, they deserved a more considered and measured response? A workable and efficient border arrangement is surely a mutual interest.
  2. The Professor does not allow for just how economically disruptive his preferred option of a “sea border” down the Irish Sea would be to the Northern Ireland economy be. In 2015, according to the official statistics, Northern Ireland’s total exports to GB were four times greater than the value of sales to the Republic of Ireland. Nor is the option of a ‘sea border’ being the English Channel (the border which is never mentioned} given any consideration. The English Channel is the transport bridge to the Republic’s markets on the continent – why not just one border rather than two for EU!

If anyone is using Northern Ireland’s position as a bargaining counter it is the European Commission.


Dr Esmond Birnie