In a letter to the editor of The New European, Alan Hause writes:

Technology is a wonderful thing. It can solve all sorts of seemingly impossible situations. So when Owen Paterson pops up on television earnestly arguing that modern, seamless techniques can overcome the Irish border problem, it sounds quite reasonable.

It's so convincing, I suggest the next time anyone hears this solution being offered that it is welcomed with open arms. Because this new invisible, seamless technology could also apply to Scotland, London, Manchester, Bristol, Brighton and all the heavily Remain-voting areas. It could cover about 48% of the population - direct democracy at work!

Would someone who understands the "seamless technology" being proposed for Ireland, please explain whether it could be applied to Scotland, London etc - with an invisible electronic border around the M25. With the highly efficient postcode system that the UK has, could it be made to work?

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    Just in case anyone is unclear, the original quote is sarcastic. The "seamless techniques" do not exist and by suggesting they could be used to patchwork the UK into leave/remain mini countries Alan Hause is attempting to force proponents of the idea to admit it is unworkable. – Jontia Dec 29 '18 at 12:05
  • Yes, governmental zones can be fragmented. Just look at the Westbank. Still doesn't mean it's desirable and wanted by the people. – Trilarion Jan 16 '19 at 12:23

Would someone who understands the "seamless technology" being proposed for Ireland, please explain whether it could be applied to Scotland, London etc - with an invisible electronic border around the M25. With the highly efficient postcode system that the UK has, could it be made to work?

Alan Hause is being sarcastic in the text that OP quotes. Nobody actually understands the "seamless technology" Paterson was talking about, probably not even himself.

During a long time the UK government was pretending that a technological solution could solve the Irish border issue, but it never cared to explain it clearly. Like many other things, this was probably a political maneuver meant to dismiss the issue as negligible, or possibly wishful thinking.

The author of the text simply makes fun of the government: thanks to this magical "seamless technology", one can find all sorts of silly solutions for unsolvable problems.

I doubt dividing the UK by postcode into two distinct countries is a very serious option, though. But who knows...

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  • Needs much more than a +1 – Jontia Dec 29 '18 at 12:05

Can parts of a country be inside the EU and other parts not?

Taking this question as written in the title, the answer is yes, and this is already the case.

They're called "Special overseas territories". This includes a number of places that are technically under British sovereignty but are not part of the EU such as the tax havens of Bermuda and the Cayman Islands. There are also special cases for the much closer islands of Man and the Channel Islands.

Finally there are places which are part of the EU as part of the UK's membership, but not part of the UK proper. If you read the actual text of the draft withdrawal agreements, they also cover "Gibraltar and the sovereign Cyprus base territories". These will also be leaving the EU under the current plan.

How large can such a special case be?

The Canary Islands (part of Spain, in Schengen but outside the VAT area) has a population of just over 2 million, larger than Northern Ireland.

Leaving NI inside the EU, VAT area, customs union, phytosanitary area, electricity market, etc. would be a very practical solution apart from the fact that the DUP hate it, because it would make NI 'closer' to the Republic than mainland Britain.


This doesn't require any magic, but all the cases involved are territorially quite isolated. Almost all of them are islands. That makes it very easy to enforce the controls that do exist.

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  • Technically, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, Man Island, the Channel Islands, etc., are not, in fact, part of the UK. – Sean Jan 17 '19 at 0:20


Note that the proposal you are referring to, with some kind of border control between Northern Ireland and the UK, it does not mean Northern Ireland remains part of the EU. They would then be part of the customs union, but not part of the EU.

Even if the UK were to dissolve (into Scotland and "the rest"), there is no way Scotland could "remain" in the EU. The best they could do is apply for membership, and it's likely to strand them. They're not likely to qualify in economic terms, but beside that, Spain is expected to veto such an application: just in case Catalonia would ever become independent, it does not want Catalonia to automatically become an EU member, so it doesn't want Scotland to set a precedent.

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    In general, the Spanish government position is not against recognizing new countries as long as the country they previously belonged to agrees to the independence; it is a region seceding from a country without that country agreement that is a no-no. So, Spain has no trouble recognizing South Sudan, Timor Leste or Montenegro but is against any recognition of Kosovo. – SJuan76 Dec 28 '18 at 13:18
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    Scotland could remain in the EU if England were to leave the United Kingdom. – phoog Dec 28 '18 at 17:33
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    @Pelinore how is "devolve" correct here? That denotes the delegation of power to a lower level, which has already been done to a significant extent. Dissolve seems better, since the situation being contemplated is a (partial) breaking up of the UK. – phoog Dec 28 '18 at 17:36
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    The foreign minister of the previous government did explicitly say that he "didn't see that [Spain] would block" an independent Scotland's entrance. Original interview (in Spanish). – Peter Taylor Dec 31 '18 at 13:37
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    @AcePL I'm not suggesting that the UK dissolve, but that England leave the UK (possibly taking Wales with it). The remaining UK, comprising Scotland, Northern Ireland, and possibly Wales, would retain its membership in the EU. – phoog Jan 17 '19 at 14:58


Or rather, doing that would turn the different parts of the UK into de-facto separate nations under a common head of state. The DUP got that right when they objected to a customs/regulatory border between NI and the rest of the UK.

Just imagine the EU bans a certain GM crop and the UK allows it, or vice versa. Would the border technology include laser guns to zap pollinating insects?

Back in the 19th century Germany was split into many small territories. It caused this politican cartoon: UnknownUnknown author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons Unknown author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The text said, Look, officer, I have no tariffs to pay. The front of the wagon is already across the border, the rear isn't across the border yet, and I've stowed nothing in the middle.

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  • The cartoon is of course a perfect metaphor for the existence of the European Union. But my question is simply whether the much-mentioned "technology", would actually work for different parts of the UK. If it were governed by postcode, would there be anything wrong with London banning the sale of GM-produced foodstuffs within the M25, or the whole of Scotland doing so. The inhabitants of London and Scotland clearly are very insistent on their rights to be Europeans. – WS2 Dec 28 '18 at 16:55
  • @WS2, just the other way around. Some things cannot be regulated differently for each little patch of land. (Just imagine even postcodes going with the decimalization of the currency in 1971 and odd postcodes keeping the Shilling. That could have been done, but it would have been silly.) – o.m. Dec 28 '18 at 17:10
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    You obviously do not remember the Ealing comedy Passport to Pimlico – WS2 Dec 29 '18 at 20:27

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