Hard borders, soft borders, no borders, we’ve heard it all. There has been much debate about which type of border would exist between a post Brexit Scotland and England in the event of Scotland being able to avoid sinking, along with the rest of the UK, into an insular little xenophobic fug with post-imperialistic tendencies. There are various permutations of the argument but we know that the British parties and their “Scottish” stooges will always plum for the most extreme variation in order to scare people into complying with their way of thinking. So lets take a look at that extreme option.
Scotland voted to remain in the EU by a hefty margin, of course the democratic will of the Scottish people matters naught to the British Fundamentalist so they insist that Scotland retains its chains to the sinking ship Britannia and we’ll all sing Jerusalem as we descend to the bottom of the North Sea amid glorious waves of red, white and blue. But let’s assume that Scotland somehow manages to retain her full EU membership (or something very close to it). This option could probably only be achieved with full independence since there is no political will on the part of the British Fundamentalists to do otherwise. They know best you see, just get back into your tartan shortbread tin Scotland.
The British Fundamentalists tell us that a hard border would exist between Scotland and England so we would should really understand what a hard border looks like. First up is the Irish border as it used to look during the euphemistically named “troubles”.
The border itself was very porous with no actual fence or wall dividing Northern Ireland from the Republic of Ireland. There were roadblocks and checkpoints, watchtowers positioned at strategic points and armed soldiers manning them all. This was a hard border. It existed between two EU member states. It blocked the movement of goods, people and services and damaged both countries economies.
The next border is another hard border, more extreme than the last one. It is the former Inner German Border which used to exist back in the days of the Cold War. I used to patrol it and it was scary, it looked like this:
There were walls, anti-vehicle ditches, mine fields (the ploughed strip above), fences, war dogs on running leashes, watch towers, armed troops and all manner of listening and observation devices. The main difference between this border and the former Irish border was that this one was designed to keep people in, not out. I like to think that this would be the type of border that would exist between England and Scotland, one which is designed to keep the poor little Englanders in since they all aspire to get into the prosperous Scotland which stayed in the EU, well maybe not.
The fact is that all borders are artificial constructs, animals and birds do not respect borders. They are by human beings, for human beings. Designed to keep human beings on one side or the other. They exist only by the will of man.
So would this type of border exist between a post Brexit England and an European Scotland? If it did it would be an extension of the English southern border. It would be an English construct since Scotland neither needs nor wants one. The only people who would want one are the UKIPpers and their Daily Express reading followers who have been fed a constant diet of the dangerous migrants and glorious Britain with its smashing Empire. It would be the border between what remains of the UK and the EU/EEA. If rUK made it difficult at one point the EU would make it difficult at all points. If rUK made it difficult to cross from Scotland within the EU/EEA into rUK then the EU would make it difficult to cross from all EU ports into rUK. For this reason sanity dictates that it would never happen (assuming some sanity still exists in this world).
Now our Tory Brexiteers insist that there would not be a hard border between a post Brexit Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. No real border exists there now and that’s the way that most people on the emerald isle want it to stay. So how can that be? How can Northern Ireland remain within the UK and have no borders with the Republic of Ireland? Well here’s how:
The border would exist around mainland UK! Taking us back to dark days of WWII. If you want to travel around the UK you will have to show your papers. Fancy jumping on a ferry to Larne? You’re going to need your passport. Live in Belfast and want to sell those goods to mainland UK? You’re going to have to pay customs duties and fill in lots of paperwork. This is the reality which awaits Northern Ireland and its soft border with the Republic of Ireland, the hard border will exist but it will be on the mainland.
So to sum up, no hard border will exist between Scotland and England whether or not Scotland retains EU membership or not. If NI remains part of UK it will have a hard border at the UK mainland and no border to speak of with the Republic of Ireland, but if NI remains within the EU it won’t have a border at all. Got it?