Brexit crash-out, tug-of-war and Taytos


Sir, – It seems an Taoiseach is uniquely placed to help break the logjam over the backstop arrangements for Northern Ireland.

He should know by now that the DUP at large are a thran lot, and would probably prefer to “eat grass” before accepting the present arrangements. In this respect they are like a previous generation of diehard UK unionists who brought about the Ulster Workers’ Strike in 1974 and caused the downfall of the first attempt at a power-sharing government in Northern Ireland under Brian Faulkner. This was, of course, before Mr Varadkar was born, but he may have read about it.

I would like the powers that be to stop using Northern Ireland as the ball in their penalty shootout or the rope in their tug-of-war. The logjam is caused by the DUP’s abhorrence of letting the EU dictate to them after Brexit, and I fear we are heading to a “no deal crash-out”, which no one wants, but the protagonists have all backed themselves into corners.

So I ask Mr Varadkar to step up to the plate, and make the following suggestion which should satisfy the constraints that the integrity of both the UK and EU is preserved while recognising that the Belfast Agreement and the good work of the past 20 years are not compromised. I ask him to stop saying, “no change is possible”, lest he himself begin to sound like Mr No, Big Ian.

Instead of trying to put Northern Ireland into pre-defined boxes, we need to think outside these and invent a new box called “permission”. Whatever the eventual outcome of the overall agreement (or lack thereof), everyone should agree to permit free movement of people back and forth across “the Border” and permit the free trade of home grown produce and home-made products between North and South. No one is forced to engage in trade but of those who so choose, the seller will have to satisfy the buyer that pre-agreed quality measures are satisfied.

You may rightly worry that smugglers will try to take advantage of these permissions and transport stuff from GB to mainland Europe via Ireland. I believe it would be easier to police cross-channel containers and lorries than the 500km of “the Border”. Draconian penalties could be imposed. In a frivolous moment I thought about life-long exile to Craggy Island with Father Jack. Perhaps something more humane.

For the record, I am an Anglican, unionist Remainer. – Yours, etc,



Sir, – As the prospect of a hard Brexit heightens, the evolving narrative on the Government’s backstop position increasingly implies we overplayed our cards. However, there are three important issues to consider when making this case.

First, the backstop forms part of the withdrawal agreement, which was merely a gateway to a trade deal that would likely mitigate the need for the backstop anyway.

Second, the EU made a huge concession to the UK by allowing the backstop to apply to the whole of the country despite initially refusing any proposals that would enable the UK to access the single market without freedom of movement. This point has been widely neglected by sections of the UK media that want to portray the EU as a domineering bully.

Third, our Government’s unflinching strategy has been vindicated by the hard Brexit position that crashing out of the EU is the only worthwhile option.

Ultimately, I believe the world will continue turning after March 29th, 2019. All we can do in Ireland is accept the UK’s decision and apply our own contingency plans where necessary. Pushing the blame back on our own Government is futile, but if commentators insist on revising the recent past, they could at least offer a viable alternative that may still avert a hard Brexit. – Yours, etc,


Clontarf, Dublin 3.

Sir, – It needs to be understood that Brexit for the British is about regaining sovereignty.

No amount of statistical prognostications about tariffs, trade, customs and so forth is going to deflect the English nation from regaining full control over its own destiny for the next hundreds of years.

We in Ireland are operating on a fundamentally different agenda. The EU has liberated us from the control and sway of the British empire, as that astute practitioner at the EU coalface, Peter Sutherland, understood and repeatedly articulated. But the British don’t really care about us.

We did not care about them 100 years ago when we fought them to a standstill to gain our independence and unless we wish to capitulate once again to their influence and control, and relinquish our own sovereignty – never the twain shall meet.

The British do not wish to kowtow to the Germans and are prepared to go on a war footing to regain their self esteem.This is in no way to be discounted.

It is an emotional and overwhelming imperative which will sweep all monetary considerations aside.

If we Irish wish to assert our independence we will also have to bare our teeth as we did back in 1922 when we fought the British to a standstill and forced them out of Ireland. It may be that down the road we will have to follow the British example and forge our own independence once again against the European monolith.

We may not like the British but we have to admire the iron in their soul. – Yours, etc,



Stillorgan, Co Dublin.

Sir, – Things seem to be pretty bad across the water from Ireland. Now is the time to send care packages to those unfortunates in the UK, and I feel a Selection Box and bag of Tayto crisps per family would be a nice gesture to make this season of sharing. I am wondering if the An Post Passport Express service could deliver the packages along with the passports to the UK? – Yours, etc,


Florence, Italy.