In March 2014, prior to the Scottish independence referendum, the then Home Secretary, Theresa May, said very clearly that if an independent Scotland and Greater England were to follow different policies on immigration, then border controls between England and Scotland would be inevitable.
Two days before the referendum on membership of the EU, the same Home Secretary pronounced with absolute certainty that border controls between the north of Ireland and the Republic would be ‘inevitable’ if the UK voted to leave.
Two weeks after becoming Prime Minister, she visited the north of Ireland and announced that border controls will definitely not be introduced.
What can we conclude from this (other than that her position on any issue is more likely to be based on the need for short term political advantage rather than any principle or strategy)?
The BBC’s reality check web site says that the truth about borders probably comes down to the detail of the terms under which the UK leaves the EU. I’m prepared to accept that that’s a reasonable conclusion. But since those terms are not yet known, we can only conclude that the latest statement from the PM can only have the same degree of credibility as the previous two – i.e. not very much at all.
At present, I can see no way in which there can be free movement between Ireland and the rest of the EU, free movement within the Common Travel Area between Ireland and the UK, and no free movement between the UK and the rest of the EU. Going via Ireland might be the long way round from Paris or Berlin, but it looks like an easy passage.Of course, if the negotiations result in continued free movement between the UK and the EU, the question doesn’t arise. A lot of the ‘leavers’ might then feel that they’ve not gained very much though.