Cameras for border ‘can avoid boots on ground’
A POST-BREXIT hard Border will have to be policed either with cameras or “boots on the ground”, a top Swiss official has suggested.
There is no other way, said Lieutenant Colonel Rebekka Straessle, the Swiss Border Guard’s chief of staff.
The Swiss/EU border operates with cameras on crossing points backed up by an intelligence process, Lt Col Straessle told Westminster’s Northern Ireland Affairs Committee.
Lt Col Straessle said there are cameras on most of the border crossings, filming number plates. “You have either have people on the ground, boots on the ground, or you have technical means,” she said, responding to a question about whether it was possible to have a border without physical infrastructure.
The British government has stressed that it does not want any physical infrastructure on the Border, and wants to maintain it “broadly as it is now”.
UK chancellor Philip Hammond warned MPs last month that cameras and other infrastructure would be deemed a “legitimate target”.
He said any physical aspects put in place would be seen as an affront to “those who do not recognise” the border on this island.
But Lt Col Straessle told British MPs yesterday that policing a hard border involves either cameras or manned checks: “I don’t see a third way. For us, it is preferable to have technical means and to have an intelligence process in the background.” The head of Switzerland’s customs service, Dr Christian Bock, told the committee that mobile patrols also take place across the border region.
“When you say that you don’t want, from historical political reasons, anything at the border, then you have to compensate,” said Dr Bock.
“Then you have to compensate, in my view, with mobile patrols. At the end of the day you need people performing checks.”
Dr Bock said he did believe a system could be designed for the Border here that didn’t entail physical checkpoints.
But he said that would require “common patrols” between the UK and the Republic to find “irregularities”, as well as an intelligence process to back this up.
“You need control points, not at the border, but somewhere in the country,” Dr Bock said.
“You need controls not at the border, but at the enterprises. You need a system of some sort of pre-qualification, like the Authorised Economic Operator, and then you need a system for low-risk trade, or when you have trade of the same kind of stuff.”
He said that for everyday goods, such as milk, “you don’t need a system where you stop every time at the border”.
Dr Bock also said German helicopters fly across the Swiss/ German border, with staff from Switzerland on board.
He said checks take place 100pc of the time through riskbased data checks. Physical checks take place between 1pc and 2pc of the time, he said. BUSINESSES must be prepared for the extra costs that Brexit will bring, former World Trade Organisation chief Pascal Lamy has said.
Mr Lamy said he agrees with the push for businesses to prepare for the worst.
“If you’re a business in the car industry, the airline industry, the food industry, you can do a simulation as to what would it mean if the UK exits in May 2019 on WTO terms,” Mr Lamy told the Irish Independent, on the margins of a Brexit event organised by AIB.
“But for sure … it will have a cost so we have to prepare for this cost. Your bottom line will be affected anyhow, and then you need to take your options on where you want to invest in five or ten or 15 years to come.”
Enterprise Ireland chief executive Julie Sinnamon has said firms have been in denial, and warned that they must start planning for a hard Brexit.
Mr Lamy also told this newspaper that there there will be some form of border post-Brexit.
“There will be a friction. You cannot have your cake and eat it,” he said. “We have removed borders to reduce costs. That’s why we did it. There will be a cost. And then the question is for whom? The consumer will have to pay the cost,” he added.
Mr Lamy said Britain will be on a “slow, painful, bumpy road to recognising reality, which is that Brexit is not a good thing”, adding: “I never thought it was a good thing. I think it was a mistake.”
“It’s not a question of negotiating the best deal. It’s a question of negotiating the least damaging deal. And once you look at it this way, I think it becomes easier.”
In his address to the AIB event at the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham last week, Mr Lamy said it was impossible to have a ‘no border’ solution, claiming it was a “fairy-tale”.
“Borders are necessary to check and to police. I personally believe that there is no ‘no border’ solution,” Mr Lamy said.
A Swiss border crossing with Germany near Basel. The country allows German helicopters to fly over its border, a Westminister committee was told yesterday