You will have seen the news. ‘Chaos’ at the ports of south-east England. Tailbacks running for miles through the Kent countryside from the new ‘hard border’ with the European Union – the cumulative impact of stamping passports to record that a political line is being crossed.
For refugees attempting to travel in the opposite direction, however, that same border has shifted entirely: outsourced to the African nation of Rwanda. The migrants whose boats wash up on the beaches of Dover have not, in official terms at least, crossed a border. Rather the plan is for them to be put on an aeroplane and sent to a border limbo over 4,000 miles to the south: asylum-seeking reduced to a global game of snakes and ladders.
Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish First Minister, has floated the possibility of another ‘hard border’ between Scotland and England in the event of a decision to leave the UK and rejoin the EU.
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In Ireland, the problem of the border seems intractable. Is it there, or isn’t it? Is it on land or is it in the Irish Sea? Just a few weeks ago Chris Southworth of the International Chamber of Commerce talked of easing the friction of trade across the Irish Border by making it entirely digital, thereby “creating the best border in the world”.
On July 20, Home Secretary Priti Patel announced an initiative to create a ‘contactless digital border’ at UK ports of entry, so that the UK border can become the “most effective in the world”.
Elsewhere, as record numbers of migrants attempt to enter the US from Mexico, Elon Musk’s electric car company has struck a deal with the state of Nuevo León to create an exclusive border crossing. At a remote checkpoint north-west of Laredo in Texas, a dedicated lane marked with the sign ‘Tesla’ allows express passage from Mexico into the US for anyone connected to, or doing business with, the company.