An ex-diplomat who helped negotiate the Good Friday Agreement and has suggested ‘Irexit’ may be the best path for Ireland following ‘Brexit’, has shown the original north/south customs border of April 1923 was imposed by the Free State government of the time despite their awareness of the ‘damaging effect’ it would have on Derry and Strabane.
Dr. Ray Bassett has argued that Ireland needs to “step outside the European Union customs union” while attempting to gain Nordic-style access to the single market similar to that currently enjoyed by Norway and Iceland.
Intriguingly, the former ambassador to Canada, has shown how the original Irish customs border was actually imposed at the behest of William T. Cosgrave’s first Cumann na nGaedheal Free State government against the wishes of Edward Carson, James Craig and the new Irish Customs Service of the day. He claims Mr. Cosgrave wanted to use the border as an economic weapon against the North and ignored the pleas of Irish business that this would be damaging to the island’s economy as a whole.
The retired diplomat, who has studied the historical documents relating to the establishment of the customs border, noted: “In a curious note, the Free State people specifically mentioned the damaging effect that a customs border would have on Derry, Strabane and Enniskillen. It was even noted that the effect of the successful smuggling of goods into the North might force the British to move the customs border into the Irish Sea. This, they speculated, would lead inevitably to demands from the business community in the North for Irish unity within a short space of time.”
Dr. Bassett, whose controversial advocacy of Irexit, has attracted considerable critcism, was recently defended by SDLP leader Colum Eastwood, who at the MacGill Summer School in Glenties, said that while he fundamentally disagreed with ex-civil servant, he would prefer to see an open debate flourish.