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The Irish border issue that needn’t be an issue at all

PUBLISHED: 06:46 05 December 2017

File photo dated 01/12/17 of President of the European Council Donald Tusk (right) meeting with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at Government Buildings in Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Saturday December 2, 2017. Mr Tusk has warned Theresa May she must satisfy Irish demands that there will be no

File photo dated 01/12/17 of President of the European Council Donald Tusk (right) meeting with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at Government Buildings in Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Saturday December 2, 2017. Mr Tusk has warned Theresa May she must satisfy Irish demands that there will be no "hard border" between the Republic and the North if the Brexit negotiations are to move forward. See PA story POLITICS Brexit. Photo credit should read: Laura Hutton/PA Wire

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In this week’s column, Chris Moncrieff argues that sorting out the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland border issues doesn’t have to be as daunting as some are making out.

Brexit supporters now suspect the hard-headed men of Brussels are not only trying to bully Britain over the decision to quit the EU, but in doing so are deliberately putting the frighteners on any other member state which is tempted to follow suit.

Now with the ‘divorce bill’ possibly on the verge of being settled - although I would not risk my life savings on that claim - the next problem appears: the sticky question of the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

And although the EU just might cast a blind eye to the free movement of people to and fro across the border, the same could not apply to goods and services with the UK outside the single market and the customs union.

Brussels have implied the entire negotiations could be in jeopardy if a way cannot be found to get Dublin to agree with whatever the UK proposes. But does this really have to be such a difficult problem as some anti-Brexiteers are claiming? Surely a ‘bespoke’ arrangement could be formulated to deal with this particular problem. Even Remainer Tony Blair has suggested that.

It is ironic that all those years ago, the UK had to fight like tigresses to get into the old Common Market (remember General de Gaulle’s, “Non, non, non”?), and now we are having to fight even harder to get out.

What terrifies Brussels more than anything else is that the UK’s lead might encourage other member states that they would like to break loose, too...

Is the Labour Party about to abandon its proud boast as ‘the broad church’ of British politics? The expression is to indicate that the party would accept anyone to the left of centre, whether a hard-line left winger like John McDonnell, shadow chancellor or ultra-moderates (if that is not a contradiction in terms), like Frank Field.

Now Momentum, a hard-line band of activists, seem hell-bent on deselecting Labour MPs, councillors who are not left-wing enough for their tastes.

Some 30 years ago, ‘legitimate’ Labour destroyed Militant, who were adopting the same tactic. But Momentum seem much more deeply embedded and nothing is being done about it.

Now moderates are warning traditional Labour values could die a slow death, unless ruthless action is taken, but they fear nothing will be done with Jeremy Corbyn at the helm.

Lord Hattersley, Labour’s former deputy leader, is among those who have expressed anxiety about Labour’s future in the face of this threat. The party is riding high at the moment, well ahead of the Tories in the polls. They don’t want to lose all that by allowing dogma to take over.

What a splendid Christmas present for would-be shoplifters! Nottinghamshire Police have announced that in a bid to save money, they will not be investigating cases of shoplifting.

This follows the announcement by Bedfordshire Police that they would not be investigating such cases when the amount stolen was worth less than £100.

I fully understand that police forces are strapped for cash, but surely there are better ways of economising than giving the green light to petty criminals? There are surely areas of police administration which could be eliminated without affecting what the police are supposed to do: catch criminals.

Shoplifting may be seen as a minor crime - but it occurs on a massive scale and is part of the reason prices in supermarkets are being kept higher than they’d otherwise need be (and it’s still costing the supermarkets millions of pounds).

I do hope these two forces - and any others which may be thinking along similar lines - would review the situation. There needs to be a sharp crackdown on shoplifters with stiff penalties available to the courts. To give them an open goal like this is little short of madness.

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