Could the Ir­ish border be an un­nec­es­sary stick­ing point?

Belfast Telegraph - Business Telegraph - - Analysis & Company Report - with John Simp­son @bel­tel_busi­ness

The ten­sion in the Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions be­cause of dis­agree­ments about ‘what to do about the border’ has made North­ern Ire­land a ma­jor fo­cus for in­ter­na­tional at­ten­tion. The Ir­ish border ques­tion came from a sim­ple propo­si­tion which has now mush­roomed into a con­fused ar­gu­ment.

When the Brexit ref­er­en­dum was suc­cess­ful, busi­ness and con­sumer in­ter­ests trad­ing across Ire­land im­me­di­ately saw the dan­ger that the fric­tion­less trad­ing ar­range­ments, which had de­vel­oped as part of the EU mem­ber­ship, could be lost.

A re­turn to the cross-border trad­ing ar­range­ments of the Fifties and Six­ties would be un­wel­come.

Avoid­ing a re­turn to a border with for­mal trad­ing con­di­tions and a re­newal of in­cen­tives to cross-border smug­gling has mu­tated into a UK-EU cri­sis. Did a sim­ple as­pi­ra­tion to con­tinue to have fric­tion­less trad­ing need to be­come com­pli­cated?

Achiev­ing a near fric­tion­less Ir­ish border brings un­in­tended con­se­quences. First, there is no doubt that, in for­mal le­gal terms, there will be a border be­tween the UK and the EU, mean­ing be­tween the UK and Ire­land.

The search for a fric­tion­less border is a search for the means to min­imise the im­pact of that changed le­gal po­si­tion.

If there is no cus­toms border, for trade or reg­u­la­tory stan­dards, for goods man­u­fac­tured or pro­cessed any­where within the whole is­land, that would fa­cil­i­tate all the man­u­fac­tur­ing and farm­ing busi­nesses, north and south. That would be the suc­cess­ful ob­jec­tive.

The dif­fi­cul­ties emerge when the ques­tion be­comes ‘what hap­pens when goods made in Great Bri­tain travel through North­ern Ire­land to buy­ers in the Repub­lic of Ire­land?’ That ques­tion can also be re­versed: ‘what hap­pens to goods made in the Repub­lic of Ire­land which pass through NI to reach cus­tomers in GB?’

If there are no for­mal border checks, be­cause there are no checks in NI, how would UK, or ROI, trad­ing and reg­u­la­tory stan­dards be en­forced?

The cre­ation of a fric­tion­less border for home-pro­duced goods trav­el­ling within the is­land, which might be a mu­tu­ally agreed am­bi­tion, has the con­se­quence that goods made in GB might travel through NI and en­ter the EU by a ‘ back door’ in Ire­land.

The dilemma emerges be­cause, whether the border is fric­tion­less or not, for some, there will be an in­ter­na­tional border be­tween NI and ROI which hap­pens to be the border be­tween the UK and the EU.

Log­i­cally there can­not be ‘no for­mal border’.

For peo­ple and busi­nesses based in North­ern Ire­land, the de­bate (of­ten mis- lead­ingly) has been about ei­ther a land border (as be­tween the UK and the Repub­lic) or a border down the Ir­ish Sea (be­tween Bri­tain and the is­land of Ire­land).

For peo­ple and busi­nesses in North­ern Ire­land, this ap­par­ent choice needs to be chal­lenged.

Could busi­nesses in North­ern Ire­land be al­lowed to op­er­ate with nei­ther a north­south or east-west border?

As an ex­tra ben­e­fit, that would give North­ern Ire­land pro­ces­sors and man­u­fac­tur­ers an ad­van­tage over GB based busi­nesses with a ‘ back door’ to the rest of the EU and might, de­pend­ing on the UK trad­ing rules, do a sim­i­lar favour to Ir­ish pro­ces­sors and man­u­fac­tur­ers sell­ing to GB/UK.

The re­ally dif­fi­cult ques­tion is whether it is pos­si­ble to com­bine a sen­si­ble trad­ing ar­range­ment for man­u­fac­tur­ers across the is­land of Ire­land with ar­range­ments that do not make trad­ing through the ROI a ‘ back door’ for GB busi­nesses or vice versa.

From a UK per­spec­tive, the an­swer needs to be a trade mech­a­nism that ad­min­is­tra­tively con­trols the con­se­quence of the ab­sence of for­mal border in­stal­la­tions in NI.

That prob­lem could dis­ap­pear if the UK and EU had agreed duty free ac­cess or ef­fec­tively main­tained a sin­gle mar­ket.

That so­lu­tion is part of the un­pop­u­lar Che­quers pro­pos­als.

The al­ter­na­tive is a sys­tem of mon­i­tor­ing the larger trad­ing or­gan­i­sa­tions at a dis­tance: at the point of dis­patch or re­ceipt.

Some such com­pro­mise, on reg­u­la­tory and po­lit­i­cal grounds, is still be­ing ex­plored.

Main­tain­ing an all-is­land fric­tion­less trad­ing area is still a key re­quire­ment and ob­jec­tive.

Whilst hear­ing loss is of­ten seen as an in­evitable con­se­quence of age­ing, and usu­ally mer­its no more than a cur­sory “I’m go­ing deaf ”, it should al­ways be re­mem­bered that hear­ing prob­lems can be em­bar­rass­ing and cause con­sid­er­able dif­fi­cul­ties in per­form­ing day-to-day tasks for those af­fected.

Sim­ple hu­man in­ter­ac­tion, par­tic­u­larly in noisy so­cial sit­u­a­tions, be­comes some­thing to be avoided.

Whilst in the past, a de­te­ri­o­ra­tion in hear­ing would not be scru­ti­nised in any great de­tail, it is now pos­si­ble to ex­am­ine both the ex­tent of the hear­ing loss and the pos­si­ble causes, one of which is pro­longed or re­peated ex­po­sure to high lev­els of noise in the work­place, par­tic­u­larly in man­ual pro­fes­sions.

Loud noise ex­po­sure can also cause tin­ni­tus, a ring­ing or buzzing in the ear, which can be per­ma­nent and ex­tremely dis­tress­ing for the suf­ferer.

Noise in­duced hear­ing loss and tin­ni­tus are con­di­tions for which com­pen­sa­tion can be sought, as­sum­ing that a suit­ably qual­i­fied ENT Sur­geon is pre­pared to con­firm that the hear­ing loss and/or tin­ni­tus, whether in whole or in part, is in­deed di­rectly re­lated to oc­cu­pa­tional noise.

The abil­ity to pur­sue le­gal ac­tion will also de­pend on the rel­e­vant em­ployer re­main­ing in ex­is­tence and able to meet a claim or, al­ter­na­tively, the ex­is­tence of rel­e­vant in­sur­ance cover at the time of em­ploy­ment.

Easy and speedy ac­cess to de­tailed hear­ing tests is now avail­able on the high street.

The hear­ing ex­perts who un­der­take such tests can ex­trap­o­late very quickly whether the pa­tient’s hear­ing loss may be re­lated to their em­ploy­ment.

They will usu­ally rec­om­mend that le­gal ad­vice is sought im­me­di­ately.

Whilst there are ex­cep­tions, court pro­ceed­ings should be is­sued within three years of the date of knowl­edge that the dif­fi­cul­ties com­plained of ap­pear to be em­ploy­ment re­lated.

Although it is hard to en­vis­age any­thing other than to­day’s ‘safety first’ ap­proach to work­ing con­di­tions, it is not that long ago that a large per­cent­age of the work­force were work­ing on a daily ba­sis in a ca­coph­ony of noise in ship­yards, power sta­tions and the like with­out any safety pre­cau­tions what­so­ever.

We only get one pair of ears each and they have to last us a life­time.

For­tu­nately there is a range of hear­ing aids and ap­pli­ances, which can be ob­tained through the NHS or pri­vately, which will en­hance hear­ing qual­ity.

The costs of such aids may be re­couped from the Em­ployer or their In­surer, along with com­pen­sa­tion for the in­jury it­self. If you feel you have been af­fected by Noise In­duced Hear­ing Loss con­tact Jonathan Dun­can. Jonathan is an As­so­ciate Part­ner at Wor­thing­tons who So­lic­i­tors spe­cialises in per­sonal in­jury lit­i­ga­tion, in­clud­ing hear­ing loss claims and as­bestos re­lated disease claims. Jonathan can be con­tacted on 02891811538 or email jonathan@ wor­thing­ton­

The in­ter­na­tional spot­light is now on NI

One fac­tor of hear­ing loss at work is be­ing ex­posed to loud noise on a reg­u­lar ba­sis

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