De Valera's empty formula could solve UK's Brexit impasse

Stephen Collins: Irish leader’s 1927 formula offers a way forward for the UK and EU

Éamon de Valera and members of his cabinet on December 29th,  1937. Photograph: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Éamon de Valera and members of his cabinet on December 29th, 1937. Photograph: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

As the talks between the European Union and the United Kingdom on the Border backstop enter a critical stage this week, maybe the time has come to fall back on the Irish solution of an empty formula that can mean whatever the parties involved want it to mean.

The term “empty formula” was devised by Éamon de Valera in 1927 to explain his volte face on the oath of allegiance, one of the key provisions of the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921, and the primary cause of the Civil War which brought such bloodshed and misery to this country.

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