Brexit and the backstop

Sir, – It now appears that Theresa May “could never accept” a backstop solution that would ensure that there would be no hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, even though she had solemnly agreed to a backstop with the EU last December.

I become more convinced every day that the outcome of the EU-UK talks on Brexit has already been fully agreed by the politicians on both sides, but that the public will be drip-fed information, some of it correct and some incorrect, in a “softening up” process in the interim. – Yours, etc,




Co Cork.

Sir, – Even by the low standards of debate in the Brexit negotiations, the remark from the Taoiseach that “You can’t take back your waters and then expect to use other people’s sky” is particularly asinine.

Britain may be taking back control of its fisheries but nobody in Britain has suggested closing British waters to merchant or passenger traffic.

Lots of countries fly aircraft into European skies – the US, Australia, China, India, Brazil, etc – but none of these countries are expected to open up their fishing grounds before they are allowed to fly into Europe.

Post-Brexit there is absolutely no practical reason why the present status quo could not continue to apply to UK and EU air traffic. If EU intransigence and stubbornness means that no aircraft can fly to or from the UK into the EU then that will in effect be an air blockade with incalculable consequences for the public image of the EU throughout the world, which would be seen to be acting in a petty and vindictive way to punish Britain for its temerity in leaving the EU. – Yours, etc,



Sir, – Fintan O'Toole ("There is nothing undemocratic about voting again on Brexit", Opinion & Analysis, July 14th) is right on the principle of voting again, but wrong about Brexit being "essentially an ultra-Thatcherite project of deregulation".

It is far from it. For Margaret Thatcher, a daughter of a small businessman, the interests of the captains of industry were paramount.

In her Lancaster House speech to a business audience in April 1988 she enthusiastically welcomed the coming of the European single market as “a market without barriers, visible or invisible, giving you direct and unhindered access to the purchasing power of over 300 million of the world’s wealthiest and most prosperous people, bigger than Japan, bigger than the United States, on your doorstep”.

In contrast the Brexiteers, want to reimpose border controls, slowing or blocking the movement of goods and labour, and to introduce complex regulations likely to smother the British economy in red tape.

Like the City generally, all the representative business bodies are opposed to Brexit: the Institute of Directors, the Confederation of British Industry, the British Banking Association, the Food and Drink Federation, and the list could continue.

What motivates Brexiteers is English nationalism. See the letters in the Daily Telegraph (once the businessman's newspaper), hear the voice of the people in BBC random street interviews, and realise that the reasons for Brexit are nationalistic reasons.

An irony is that the European Union has just signed a trade agreement with Japan from which the UK will benefit, but only for a few months. – Yours, etc,


Celbridge, Co Kildare.

Sir, – Ken Andrew (July 19th) wonders why the EU is not able to provide the UK with a deal similar to the recently signed EU/Japan trade agreement. He suggests that the reason might be an intention to punish the UK for implementing the Brexit vote.

On the contrary, Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, has long since argued that a UK/EU free trade deal similar to that agreed with Canada in 2017, and now with Japan, is the logical consequence of the UK’s desire to leave the EU’s customs union and single market.

However, the UK has already rejected the so-called Canada model but instead wants to have frictionless trade in goods with the EU.

The agreements with Canada and Japan certainly eliminate or reduce tariffs on most goods, but border and port checks will still be required due to the absence of a customs union and single market.

Indeed, one could argue that it is the UK which is intent on punishing the EU27 by seeking to undermine the single market by having its cake and eating it.– Yours, etc,


Dublin 1.

Sir, – Neither the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man are regarded as part of the United Kingdom, nor are they part of the European Union.

The Isle of Man is a self-governing British crown dependency, while the Channel Isles are in fact two separate political units, known as the Bailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey, which are possessions of the British crown with independent administrations. People living in both the Isle of Man and in the Channel islands use British passports for travel purposes, arrangements which have been in place for decades.

So there are already British crown subjects living in the British Isles who are not part of the EU, but who do business directly with the EU. Surely there are templates there to help resolve the apparently intractable Northern Ireland border Brexit negotiations?

“The Bailiwick of Northern Ireland” might sound a bit strange, but if it meant no return to customs posts and a frictionless border, we should all be able to live with that. Maybe we might use a bit of imagination and look to what is already happening close to our shores to find a solution to this impasse. – Yours, etc,



Co Mayo.