Cumbria County Council Leader blunders on ‘Berlin wall’ to keep Cumbria out of EU

SNP MSP Emma Harper said;

“This statement from the Cumbria County Council leader does nothing other than doom-monger. At no point has anyone – SNP or otherwise in the Scottish independence movement – proposed a hard border between Scotland and the other UK nations. Indeed, It’s Brexit which throws up borders and cuts the UK off from the world, not independence.

“There are numerous examples from around the world of successful countries– particularly countries which are members of trading and customs unions – where borders are not restrictive and allow for the free-flow of people, goods and services. Indeed, we have also seen – through the Brexit transition period – that it is possible to have unrestricted movement between EU and non-EU member states – for example, in Northern Ireland where I have been exploring what is required for an efficient and seamless border crossing from Cairnryan.

“The SNP is an internationalist party and, in the event of a Yes vote, we will continue to take all necessary steps to protect trade between Scotland and the rest of the UK, as well as with the EU single market which is 8 times bigger than the UK market. I would urge the Leader of Cumbria County Council to carefully consider his comparisons and choice of words – comparing the oppressive Berlin Wall to independence for Scotland is not only ludicrous, it is disrespectful.”

BACKGROUND: “English council leader says Scotland would have to ‘build the Berlin Wall’ to close the border”

“The leader of Cumbria County Council says Scotland would have to ‘build something like the Berlin Wall’ in order to physically close the border.”

Havng a border, which is already there, is not the same as closing a border. This is limited by ignorance or imagination and a quick look around the world shows there are many light-touch border controls or even free-movement. The Berlin Wall was a famously significant concrete construction physically separating the German city and is long since gone.

“In recent weeks, fears have been raised by Scottish politicians that a hard border could exist between Cumbria and Scotland, either due to a coronavirus lockdown or through an independent Scotland rejoining the EU.”

It’s certainly not evident that a hard border is desirable by anyone and being scared about what could be is a normal response to a potential unknown.

“Stewart Young, the Labour leader Cumbria County Council, said: “If they were to join the EU there would be a hard border – look at the whole debate with Ireland, we either have a border on the land or a border in the sea. It is impossible to not have a border. ”

This is a pointless statement as all countries have borders whether in the UK or EU. How the border is managed is what varies.

“Personally I don’t want to see Scotland leave the union. My family historically comes from Annandale, Lockerbie, Ecclefechan, that area. A lot of people have those family connections either side of the border. ”

There is no connection between a person’s family history and countries being in a political union, the family history will always remain in the past regardless of changes to countries in the present and future. The Chief Executive has expressed a personal opinion but Scotland will still have been in the union when the historical connections were made, irrespective of Scotland being independent in the future.

“On the positive side, there would be jobs created because the physical border would have to be manned, but the impacts on trade, especially with tariffs, would mean the negatives far outweigh the positives.

It’s not evident from anything the Chief Executive has said what exactly the negatives are other than what potential tariffs, as yet unspecified, may be in place. If people were required to be present at a border then this would entail employment which here is felt to be a positive. Very little rigour or critical examination on display here.

“There’s a lot of people in the south of Scotland who work in Carlisle, as it’s the biggest population centre in the area – there’s only around 30,000 people in Dumfries [Carlisle’s population is around 100,000].”

This is a statement of population and social geography.

“We’ve discovered though a recent Covid-19 outbreak at the Cumberland Infirmary [in Carlisle] that there is a sizable number of hospital staff who actually live in Scotland, and a border would have made things a lot harder.”

Again this would largely be down to how to manage the border and could be safer for the public, making it easier to test and trace, and prevent spread of virus.

“On a separate note, what comes with a physical border is smuggling, like what used to happen before the union, and what always happens when there’s a difference in tax rates or tariffs.”

Smuggling happens whether there is a physical border or not and will always be a problem for enforcement and protection agencies.

“It happens in Ireland, between the Republic and Northern Ireland, due to the difference in tax, and as in Ireland it would be impossible to police.”

By this argument, it happens just now, has been happening for many years, and does not seem to have been a major priority. Not clear what the relevance of this is now than at any other time. And there’s never been a Berlin Wall between the Republic and Northern Ireland which seems to go against the initial assertion.