No biometric silver bullet for post-Brexit Irish border

21/08/17

Senior security experts say that technology alone cannot simply solve the problem of an Irish border after Brexit.

Last week, the UK government touted plans for an “invisible” digital border. In a position paper, issued ahead of the resumption of the Brexit negotiations, the government had already ruled out introducing checkpoints or installing CCTV cameras along the 310-mile frontier.

However, the co-founder of the Centre for Irish and European Security, Sadhbh McCarthy, has said the idea could be hard to realise. 

McCarthy said: “Neither I nor my colleagues are aware of any instance in which a solution such as that envisaged by politicians for Brexit has been established anywhere in the world.

“The idea that you can use technology in some way to minimise what is essentially a political problem is ludicrous. There are plenty of snake oil salespeople out there who might tell you otherwise, but the fact remains.”

Speaking to the Irish Times, McCarthy, also a former managing director at the European Biometrics Forum, added: “It doesn’t matter what you do electronically to minimise the visuals, a border will still exist.

“You can reduce the number of people who are seen doing things, but you will always need to have them nearby to respond when a problem is identified.”

She won support from Dr Mark Maguire, an expert on security and border issues at Maynooth University in the Republic. “There’s no magic bullet,” he said. “It just doesn’t exist.”

He said technology could create a smart border, but not prevent crossings between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Furthermore, the technology would be “primarily used for surveillance”, he warned, adding: “People living and working near the border would likely not enjoy having drones etc flying above their heads every day.”

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