Brexit deal – a ‘legally enforceable thing’?

Photograph: Getty Images

Sir, – David Davis is reported as having suggested that any commitment given last Friday, with regard to Brexit and in relation to Ireland, was “more a statement of intent than it was a legally enforceable thing”.

The backdrop is the 1998 Belfast Agreement on Northern Ireland, often viewed as a classic political deal. Fewer will be aware that the Belfast Agreement had two components: (1) a political deal, and (2) a separate treaty between Ireland and the UK to which the political deal was annexed.

The treaty was registered as such with the United Nations. There is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that it is fully binding in international law on the UK. Article two of the treaty provides for a “North/South Ministerial Council”, and for certain “implementation bodies” as set out in the (separate) political agreement.

If the UK does eventually withdraw from the EU, the single market and the customs union (a big if), public international law requires that it do so only in accordance with the provisions of the 1998 treaty. This means that the mode of withdrawal must preserve the functioning of the North/South ministerial council, etc.


In the recent Brussels deal, the UK indicated how that state could withdraw in a way that was acceptable to the EU and to Ireland. In doing so, it is beyond doubt that it was indicating how it proposed to discharge a binding obligation in international law.

To suggest that the UK could unilaterally decide which of its international obligations were “non-binding” is delusional. – Yours, etc,




Sir, – Memories of “mental reservation” comes to mind in recent talks on the Border, east and west, north and south. – Yours, etc,



Co Tyrone.

Sir, – The catch-cry of the Brexiteers is that they want to take back control of their money, laws and borders. Assuming of course that there’s any money left to control. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 15.

Sir, – The kerfuffle (if you’ll excuse the term) over David Davis’s statement is unnecessary when one remembers that all politics begins and ends at home.

Mr Davis is simply trying to sell the nonsensical agreement to the majority in the UK that voted for a nonsensical Brexit. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 8.

Sir, – Were we sold a pup? – Yours, etc,



Co Meath.

Sir, – As we bathe in the comfort of the support for Ireland from the rest of the EU during the first phase of the Brexit negotiations, we should bear in mind that payback for this benefit may well be expected at some stage in the future, most likely in relation to co-ordination of taxation. As Charles de Gaulle said, “No nation has friends, only interests”. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 5.

Sir, – On behalf of my native city, I must take exception to your editorial heading “London bows to a new reality” (December 9th). Londoners were fully aware of the folly of Brexit when they voted overwhelmingly against it in last year’s referendum. – Yours, etc,



Co Donegal.

Sir, – Hotel Brexit – you can check out any time you like. But you can never leave. – Yours, etc,



Co Wicklow.

Sir, – “In the absence of agreed solutions, the United Kingdom will maintain full alignment”. Should that not read, “In the presence of agreed solutions”? If there is no EU-UK deal, all bets are surely off. – Yours, etc,



Sir, – By agreement on all sides, Brexit now means combining UK exit from the single market and the customs union with no hard border.

“Squaring the circle” is a problem known to ancient Greek mathematicians (it asks whether it is possible to geometrically construct a square with the same area as a given circle).

It wasn’t until 1882 that the definitive answer to the conundrum was proved: it is not possible to square the circle . . . unless you allow the process to take an infinite number of steps. Do we have time for that by March 2019? – Yours, etc,


(Emeritus Professor

of Mathematics, UCC),



Sir, – In light of what was agreed between the EU and the UK, the hard Brexiteers might want to reflect on the words of TS Eliot, “We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time”. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

A chara, – Listening to all the Brexit negotiations, it sounds like the average Irish family trying to iron out the creases of years of tension before they sit down for their annual dinner together.

So again as is usual at this time of year I will be relaunching my new product today.

It’s a special dustpan and brush, especially designed for sweeping up broken egg-shells; so many of which get broken at this time of year as people try not to walk on them. No family should be without the magic pan and brush this Christmas. – Is mise,



Dublin 12.