Dr Andreas Kokkinis, expert in corporate governance, corporate theory, and financial regulation, discusses the Brexit withdrawal agreement and whether Northern Ireland will have to follow EU single market rules to avoid a hard border.
“Maintaining membership of the Customs Union after Brexit is the only way to prevent the creation of a border either between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland or between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK (Great Britain).
If the UK leaves the Customs Union the only way to avoid setting a border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, as agreed in December 2017 between the UK and EU, would be effectively to set up customs controls between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, which would jeopardise peace in Northern Ireland.
So, if the UK is not part of the Customs Union there will be two options – both of them politically undesirable for Northern Ireland: either to set up a border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, which will be the Customs Union’s external border just like the border between Poland and Belarus, or to set up a border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain which again will serve as the Union’s external border and to pass legislation that will require Northern Ireland to continue to abide by EU law. Such a solution would also raise questions on the situation in Scotland.
In this light, the change of policy of the Labour Party regarding membership of the Customs Union is very significant”.