Our political editor, WALTER CRONXITE, discovers that the borough’s Conservative MP is entirely unaware of the old saying, ‘When in a hole, stop digging…’
Croydon South MP Chris Philp says, “I stand by the tweet completely,” after he attempted to solve one of the intractable problems over Britain’s exit from the European Union by posting on social media a photograph of a dead-end road in Switzerland.
Philp – who voted to Remain in the EU – posted his highly misleading tweet on October 20, the same day that 700,000 marched through London calling for a “People’s Vote”.
The Tory MP was widely ridiculed on social media, being called “totally clueless” and “embarrassing” after his attempt to make the case that the Northern Ireland hard border issue can be easily resolved using technology.
“This is what EU Customs Union border can look like – Flughafenstrasse in Basel on Swiss (not in CU) French (in CU) border. There is a little sign and a small camera of the kind seen on every high street. There are technical solutions to ensuring no hard border NI/RoI,” Philp tweeted attaching a picture without a customs officer in sight.
Trouble is, the road shown in Philp’s tweet is a cul-de-sac which leads nowhere.
In the far distance in his picture can be seen a row of white tents which, people familiar with the area say are used by customs officials checking on those travelling between France and Switzerland.
“He probably has photographic evidence of pigs flying above his ‘seamless border crossing’,” joked one tweeter, who mentioned Philp but did not reply directly to MP’s Twitter account.
Another, who also did not reply at Philp, said that the MP’s contention that the Swiss border “is infrastructure-free and a model for Northern Ireland” was entirely false. The last time they were at the Swiss-French border, they said, “I saw checkpoints and queues. Must have been my imagination.”
And another explained, patiently, “Nope, not a customs border. This road doesn’t enter EU customs territory.” Philp has subsequently claimed that the road does lead to France.
By noon today, Philp’s original tweet had attracted 1,200 comments (though there have been countless responses from Twitter users who did not direct their comments at the MP, and so will not have been counted), it had been re-tweeted 1,400 times and liked 2,100 times.
Philp seems to believe that those social media stats provide some kind of validation for his misleading intervention.
“I stand by the tweet completely,” he said.
Philp’s efforts to remain loyal to his government’s Brexit negotiations sees him steadfastly continue to suggest that a border solution between the Republic and Northern Ireland can easily be resolved with a few CCTV cameras.
“Many of the comments willfully mis-interpreted what the tweet said, which is that there are technical solutions that can ease border crossings in relation to crossing a customs border,” Philp told Inside Croydon.
Philp blamed the public who had responded to his tweet for misunderstanding what he had said.
“Some correctly pointed out that customs checkpoints exist elsewhere on the Swiss-French border, just not on the border at this road. I am fully aware of that, having driven through such checkpoints around 100 times (although I have never actually been stopped at one).
“That is part of the point – you can have customs clearance points for commercial freight at a limited number of sites which could in theory be away from the border itself. This might be a model for Northern Ireland.
“I explicitly referenced crossing a Customs Union border customs in the tweet. I was not referring to crossing a single market or a Schengen (people) border. I know Switzerland has some Single Market access arrangements, as I referenced in parliament a few weeks ago to the Prime Minister. I also know that Switzerland and France are both in Schengen – I was not making a Schengen border point, but a Customs Union border one.
“In any case, Northern Ireland and the UK have a Common Travel Area that pre-dates the EU. EU citizens are likely to have visa-free access to the UK after we leave, so they would not need to come into the UK via the ‘back door’ via Northern Ireland anyway – they will be able to come in directly through Dover, Heathrow etc without needing a visa.
“So we will not need people checks on the Republic of Ireland-Northern Ireland border anyway (although that was not the point of the tweet).
“There are already limited visa checks for non-EU citizens at ports and airports between the Republic and the UK (but not the Northern Irish land border) and this status will likely continue after we leave. However the UK is working with the Republic of Ireland to develop common visa polices for non-EU citizens, so in the future we may be able to dispense with these (because the Republic is not in Schengen, they apply checks at entry to arrivals from both EU and non-EU countries, as we do).
“Many of the replies were clear mis-interpretations of a tweet that simply said (rightly) that technical solutions can facilitate smooth crossing of a Customs Union border in many some places.”
Which is, of course, an argument put forward notably by none other than Boris Johnson. And what he knows about the technicalities of Brexit can be written, well, on the side of a bus…
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