Brexit talks contain uncanny echoes of events a century ago

EU gives Government cover to compromise on Border issue long overlooked in London

Former British prime minister Herbert Asquith wrote in 1914: ‘I have rarely felt more hopeless in any practical affair: an impasse with unspeakable consequences upon a matter which to English eyes seems inconceivably small and to Irish eyes immeasurably big. Isn’t it a real tragedy.’ File photograph: Edward Gooch/Getty Images

Former British prime minister Herbert Asquith wrote in 1914: ‘I have rarely felt more hopeless in any practical affair: an impasse with unspeakable consequences upon a matter which to English eyes seems inconceivably small and to Irish eyes immeasurably big. Isn’t it a real tragedy.’ File photograph: Edward Gooch/Getty Images

The tortuous talks on Brexit, which are now entering a critical stage, contain uncanny echoes of the events of a century ago that reshaped the continent of Europe. One of the threads that links past and present is the Irish Border, which had its origins in the great political controversy over Home Rule that dominated politics in Ireland and Britain on the eve of the first World War.

Back in the summer of 1914 in an effort to avert a political crisis that threatened to unleash a civil war across the United Kingdom, King George V convened a conference of British and Irish political leaders at Buckingham Palace. One of the big issues was whether some counties of Ulster should be excluded on a temporary basis from the remit of an Irish parliament and if so which ones.

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