By Tom Hayes & Derek Mooney – Download this proposal as a PDF : NI Special Economic Zone Proposal
We believe that Brexit is mistake, but we recognise that it was backed by a majority of voters in 2016 and that there is no serious move, at this time, to retest public opinion.
Similarly, though we think that the U.K. can still leave the EU while remaining in the Single Market and (‘a’, if not ‘the’) Customs Union and we sense that there is a cross party majority in the House of Commons for this position: it increasingly appears to us that this is an unlikely outcome as the leadership of both main parties seem determined not to pursue this sensible avenue.
In this context of the U.K. leaving the institutions of the EU while also exiting the Single Market and the Customs Union we are concerned with the public debate around the future of a hard border across the island of Ireland.
We are further perturbed by suggestions from pro-Brexiteers that technology is the answer and that the hard land border consequence of a resolutely pro-Brexit policy can be magically softened by “automatic number plate recognition” and “trusted traveller programmes”.
We believe that a possible solution to the border issue in Ireland may lie in Northern Ireland (NI) becoming a Special Economic Zone within the UK and, as such, remaining aligned with the EU Single Market and Customs Union.
We do not believe because a region has a different set of economic rules from the rest of the state that implies any form of constitutional divergence. Were NI to be both in the UK and in the EU’s integrated, internal market, this could act as a magnet for inward investment giving a major boost to the NI economy.