The post-Brexit future of the Irish border and current challenges to the European project was the focus of a public discussion on the future of Europe and its borders hosted by Trinity College Dublin in partnership with the Financial Times yesterday evening, Wednesday, January 17, 2018.
One of the Government’s lead Brexit negotiators was among speakers at the event, entitled ‘The Future of Europe and its Borders’, which forms part of the Behind the Headlines public discussion series organised by Trinity Long Room Hub Arts and Humanities Research Institute. It examined a matter at the very heart of Europe’s founding freedoms – the border question and the free movement of people, goods and services.
The debate is the culmination of Trinity’s collaboration with the Financial Times on the ‘Future of Europe’ essay competition, which saw students from six European universities compete for the chance to have an opinion piece published by the Financial Times. Speakers at the event were senior Irish diplomat Rory Montgomery, Financial Times columnist Janan Ganesh, Financial Times business editor Sarah Gordon and Marie Sophie Hingst, Trinity winner of the ‘Future of Europe’ essay competition.
The issue of migration and the movement of people into Europe and throughout its jurisdictions have challenged the very core of the EU institutions in recent years. Now, the UK’s exit from the European Union poses new questions about the freedom of goods and services and brings the border dilemma closer to home.
At the event senior Government official Rory Montgomery, Head of the European Union Division at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, said that the EU has always been fundamentally about the elimination of borders and argued that European borders can at the same time represent difference and focus co-operation. In this context he discussed the post-Brexit future of the Irish border and of British-Irish relations.
"Borders are often a site and subject of contention, of conflict and of violence … Borders are often a source of problems but they are inevitable. They can be a focus of exchange and corporation as well to deal with practical problems, admittedly problems created by borders in the first place."
In Ireland, the border has been both a symbol of division and a source of division, he said. The avoidance of a return to a hard border is "hugely important" for Ireland, but it is "very challenging", he added.
"The Irish border will be an external frontier of the European union and it will be the UK's only land border with the European Union. That of course imposes obligations on us as members of the European Union to support, reinforce and protect the single market and the customs union and our partners will be expecting that what ever outcome emerges in the end will fully protect the single market and the customs union and that is hugely in our interests both economic and political."
Also speaking at the event was Financial Times columnist Janan Ganesh who examined the current challenges to the European project.
"Although the European Project has never glided along smoothly, it now faces unprecedented obstacles. The borders around and within the EU are increasingly hotly discussed, nowhere more so than in Ireland, with its unique exposure to Brexit.”
The Trinity winner of the ‘Future of Europe’ essay competition, Marie Sophie Hingst, also addressed the event and argued that Europeans should not abandon a collective identity.
“In 1796 the Irish philosopher Edmund Burke wrote ‘no European could be a complete exile in any part of Europe’. His statement is provocative and insightful when approaching the migration and border policies of Europe today. In the past, Europe’s restrictive border policies had murderous consequences for those trying to seek refuge or finding themselves trapped within its borders as was the case of European Jews. It is upon us to decide if we seriously consider a Burkean vision of Europe possible or if we once again abandon the sense of solidarity for each other.”
Financial Times business editor Sarah Gordon discussed why frictionless borders matter so much to trade and Europe's future prosperity.
"Now, more than ever before, it is important to listen and give space for differing and divergent opinions about the future of our continent. The FT's Future of Europe Project has engaged with young people across the region who will take over its leadership in the coming years. The arguments that have emerged through six student editorials and events across six countries in Europe, including the forthcoming debate at Trinity College Dublin, will not only inform and enrich our thinking as journalists but we hope will give our readers more diverse perspectives on the challenges, and opportunities, that lie ahead."
About the speakers:
Rory Montgomery is Second Secretary General, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Head of the European Union Division, with a particular focus on Brexit. He has previously been Ireland's Permanent Representative to the European Union and Ambassador to France. He also served as EU adviser to former Taoiseach Enda Kenny. In the 1990s he was part of the Irish team which negotiated the Good Friday Agreement.
Marie Sophie Hingst
Marie Sophie Hingst studied History and East Asian Studies in Berlin, Lyon and Los Angeles. She joined Trinity College Dublin in 2013 for a PhD thesis on English colonial strategies in 17th Century Ireland under the supervision of Micheál Ó Siochrú and Mark Hennessy at the School of Histories and Humanities and was a graduate research fellow at the Trinity Long Room Hub from 2015 to 2017. Further to her studies in history, she is engaged in humanitarian work and runs an awarded slum clinic in New Delhi with a focus on Women’s Healthcare. Marie Sophie Hingst was named as the Trinity winner of the Financial Times 'The Future of Europe Project' competition last November. Sophie’s winning article, entitled Europeans should not abandon a collective identity, published in the Financial Times, can be read here.
Janan Ganesh is a columnist for the Financial Times, writing about politics on Tuesdays and lifestyle at the weekend. He was formerly the political correspondent of The Economist between 2007 and 2012, and a research fellow at Policy Exchange, the influential London think tank for two. Janan regularly appears on TV and radio, including a weekly slot on BBC 1′s Sunday Politics, and he is a frequent commentator on BBC 4′s Westminster Hour. His book George Osborne: The Austerity Chancellor (2012), was the first published biography of George Osborne, the UK chancellor. Janan also co-authored Compassionate Conservatism with Jesse Norman MP (2006). In 2013, Janan was a finalist in the British Journalism Awards, Politics Journalist of the Year. He is currently writing a book about London.
Sarah Gordon is the Financial Times’ business editor and an associate editor, with overall responsibility for covering business developments in Europe. She took up the role in January 2014. Prior to this she was the FT’s companies editor and an assistant editor, and before that she was the international company news editor, overseeing the coverage of international company news in the daily newspaper and on FT.com. Gordon joined the Financial Times in 2001 on the UK companies desk before moving onto a position as deputy personal finance editor. She later spent three years as a writer and assistant editor on the Lex column. Before joining the Financial Times Gordon worked in emerging markets fund management for Citigroup's asset management business, and before that she worked as an economist in London, reviewing political and economic events and producing analysis of the global economy. She started her career working for the UN Conference for Trade and Development debt management programme in Geneva. Gordon holds a BA Honours in English Literature from Clare College, Cambridge, and a Masters in Latin American Politics and Economics from Oxford.
About the 'Behind the Headlines' Series
The ‘Behind the Headlines’ discussion series hosted by Trinity Long Room Hub Arts and Humanities Research Institute offers background analyses of current issues from experts from the fields of arts and humanities research. It aims to provide a forum that deepens understanding, combats simplification and polarisation, creating a space for informed and respectful public discourse. The series is supported by the John Pollard Foundation.
About the Future of Europe Essay Competition
The Financial Times Future of Europe essay competition held in 2017 aimed to provide a space for young people to brainstorm about the future of Europe. The project is a collaboration between leading FT experts and six universities across Europe — Trinity College Dublin; Sciences Po in Paris; Bocconi in Milan; Jagiellonian University in Krakow; the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin; and the Athens University of Economics and Business. Students were asked to write an opinion piece in response to the following questions: Should the next frontier for Europe be deeper integration, or handing back some power to nation states? Would it be wise to reconsider the four founding freedoms in the EU treaties? Is it time to concentrate on eurozone priorities rather than the broader EU27? To what extent is German leadership of Europe desirable or necessary? Six winning pieces were subsequently published in the Financial Times at the end of 2017. See #FutureofEurope. www.ft.com/futureofeurope