I asked the driver “when will we cross the border?”
To which he replied “about ten minutes ago.”
“How do you tell?” I pressed.
“Oh its easy” he replied, “did you notice it got light? “Well Belgians have street lights on the motorway and the Germans think it’s a waste of money, when it got light that was Belgium.”
This experience seemed a little strange to me at the time but it occurred to me that lots of people catch the ferry from Scotland to Ireland and I have crossed the border between Eire (aka Southern Ireland) and Northern Ireland by bike, train and car without any border checks. Indeed, a little research confirmed that even at the height of the “Irish troubles” there were no passport checks and people crossed the UK/Eire border to work and to see relatives and friends on a daily basis. The UK has a freedom of movement and open trade border with Eire, without any barriers to business or checks or import duties etc.
Moreover, this agreement has been recently strengthened. London and Dublin have boosted the historic free movement agreement between the UK and Eire as part of wider UK and Irish plans for closer economic co-operation. Dubbed a “mini-Schengen area”, business people, travellers, tourists and goods can move freely between the two independent counties without border checks or any trade barrier whatsoever. This is important to the UK economy because, although Eire is a lot smaller and less important a market for UK goods than say Scotland is for English goods, bilateral trade between the UK and our friends and neighbours in Eire is worth around €50bn a year. The two countries are even discussing joint trade missions to the fast growing BRIC economies and even embassy sharing in some places in the world.
When the No Campaign talks about Scotland’s borders they claim that a small independent nation within the EU will be forced to join Schengen area (a group of 26 EU member states with open borders since 1995). However, Eire (which has a smaller population than Scotland) has an opt out from Schengen, Why? Because it already has a pre-existing free movement and trade agreement with the UK. Scotland has the same pre-existing agreement, not just with the other countries of the UK but also with Eire and so ipso facto an independent Scotland gets an automatic opt-out of Schengen as well. The precedent has been set under EU law.
The No Campaign tell us that an independent Scotland wouldn’t be able to keep its existing three big opt outs from EU agreements because they only exist as a result of the UK’s size and influence in Brussels, but not only does 4.5m population Eire have a Schengen opt-out, Denmark with a remarkably similar size population as Scotland has four opt-outs including not being forced to use the Euro.
Never letting facts get in the way of a good scare story, the No campaign went into overdrive earlier this year when Home Secretary Theresa May said “Scots may face checks at the English border.” Meantime, Scottish Secretary Michael Moore has claimed Scotland’s border controls would be a “complete nightmare” after independence, with the prospect of minor roads and farm tracks being patrolled. Now that is bordering on the ridiculous!
The Gibraltar question and the gratuitous battleship images.
The UK government is apparently only a fan of border checks and patrols when it comes to Scotland. In contrast, it is considering taking Spain to the highest court in Europe because they have decided to carry out border checks.
David Cameron’s spokesperson said “the Prime Minister was very disappointed by Spain’s failure to remove the border checks and that unprecedented legal action through the EU would be considered.”
What I also find irritating is that Gibraltar related news in the last few weeks on the BBC has carried images of a series Royal Navy ships heading for the peninsula. Now, we all know that there is no chance, I mean absolutely zero chance, of the UK entering any form of military conflict with Spain, so why the gratuitous aircraft carrier shots? Well, apparently that’s what brand Britain still stands for in the BBC. We can’t have an international disagreement even a minor diplomatic one without some reference to military power – that is the Westminster system and London establishment’s way, and the BBC often (possibly unintentionally) acts as the standard bearer for British nationalism.
From the BBC article on the Spanish border disagreement: A Royal Navy taskforce has left UK ports on a routine deployment. One of its ships – HMS Westminster – will stop in Gibraltar.
But who would a trade barrier hurt?
We are often told that Scotland exports a lot to the rest of the UK (rUK) and it does, taking an average of the variety of estimates of exports and imports between Scotland and rUK, we can see that Scotland exports around £47.5 billion of goods and services a year. BUT (that’s a big but) HM Treasury’s using experimental data to estimates that rUK exported £49 billion in goods and services to Scotland in 2011.
Trade barriers hurt the UK as much as Scotland! Not only do the No Campaign’s London focussed politicians need to wonder how they will get re-elected when English companies lose nearly £4bn a month in orders but much of Scotland exports to the rUK are energy based with the rUK purchasing 3/4 of our gas and at least 25% of our electricity. So the rUK would have a massive energy deficit with up to 35% of its long term energy requirement (and a higher % of its renewable energy requirement) either unmet (leading to electricity rationing in England) or subject to self imposed trade barriers.
In essence, if you are thinking of voting No because you believe that the current batch of Westminster unionist politicians are capable of committing economic and political suicide, then you should perhaps also be asking yourself why you are planning on voting no and leaving politicians that are that incompetent in charge of Scotland? Either they are misleading us or they are incompetent!
So, according to the No campaign, other countries who are already independent can trade with the UK without borders (or we will emphasise military might and threaten to sue them). Independently governed countries within the British Isles can have no passport patrols, no trade barriers and no big wire fence with sniper towers and border patrols but if Scotland decides to govern itself and stop subsidising the UK with our 9.9% of UK taxes generated from 8.4% of the UK population then we will have to queue at the border.
Bizarre to say the least, especially as exports to Scotland from the rest of the UK are vital to the rUK economy and trade barriers would sink the newly independent rUK economy. The rest of the UK would suffer an energy deficit if it wasn’t able to freely purchase energy from Scotland so if they were to implement trade barriers and border controls that they themselves claim would be illegal under EU law there would be the risk of blackouts in England’s major cities!
Is the No campaign’s border hypocrisy the most ridiculous of recent scare stories or can you think of a worse example?
All undecided voters should ask themselves, if there is a positive reason for Scots to vote to remain in the political union, then why can’t the No Campaign come up with one? They can’t because there isn’t one, hence the increasingly desperate reliance on absurd and ridiculous scaremongering.