Having brought lasting peace and prosperity to Libya as Secretary of Defence and universally-lauded austerity measures to the UK as Chancellor, Philip Hammond will complete a perfect game if he can solve the post-Brexit Irish border problem. Perhaps the most fraught situation to arise from Britain leaving the European Union is the possibility that checkpoints may once again litter the tragic border between Northern Ireland and the Republic to the south. So, what does “Spreadsheet Phil” propose will solve this most sensitive of issues? Why, a blockchain border, of course!
When asked at the Conservative Party conference what he considered to be the best way to ensure that goods and services are able to pass freely between the two Irish nations, Hammond responded with an abject lack of conviction that;
“There is technology becoming available (…) I don’t claim to be an expert on it but the most obvious technology is blockchain.”
Such succinct and emotive oration surely ranks alongside Dr King’s “I don’t claim to be an expert on dreams” speech of 1963 but what exactly would a blockchain border entail?
Unfortunately, from here details of Mr Hammond’s plan become a touch sketchy, so much so in fact that one begins to suspect that he may not have considered the matter any further than the sentence in which he was speaking. It’s equally possible that Phil may have simply overheard one of his cryptocurrency enthusiast pals from the Tory Party talking blockchain and decided to get in on the act. David Cameron, Grant Shapps and Michelle Mone are all known crypto-philes so it’s feasible that one or more of them led Hammond to the conclusion that blockchains are a modern panacea for everything from entrenched geopolitical strife to the removal of grass stains.
This, however is patently untrue. For all its myriad attributes, neither grass stains nor the imminent threat of sectarian violence can be ameliorated with blockchain technology. In fact, the idea of a blockchain border for Ireland was recently dismissed as “complete nonsense” by a panel of IT and security experts, one of whom, Sadhbh McCarthy, described the notion as;
“one of these things that if people say it often enough it starts to sound like something that could work”
Let’s just hope the Chancellor does the sensible thing and leaves the amount of times he suggests a blockchain border for Ireland at one, lest anyone start to think that it could actually work. And if you happen to read this, Phil, could you maybe stick with the spreadsheets next time and leave the distributed ledgers to someone else?