Brexit may need a helping hand of history
Sir, – As the Brexit negotiations continue along their tortuous path the issue of the Irish Border appears as insurmountable as ever.
Perhaps a glance back to a time, some 53 years ago, as Ireland’s economic future was again thrown into turmoil when our initial attempt to join the then European Economic Community (the word “community” having since been supplanted) was rebuffed.
The serious implications of this decision were offset with the negotiation in 1965, by Ireland’s iconic public servant TK Whitaker and his team of civil servants, of the first Anglo-Irish Free Trade Agreement. This agreement became the lifeline for Irish trade, especially agricultural exports, during the uncertain years prior to full membership of the EEC in 1973.
While the economic scenario vis-a-vis Ireland and the UK has undoubtedly altered in the intervening years, the two countries still retain a close interdependence in areas such as trade and travel, further complicated by the political developments that have since occurred in relation to the Border and Northern Ireland.
Perhaps, as Whitaker did in 1965, we should again seek some form of a bilateral Anglo-Irish arrangement (even on an interim basis) which might ease, even eliminate, the conundrum posed by our shared border and the obligations of both the UK and Ireland to Northern Ireland under the Belfast Agreement.
It is perhaps the least our EU partners should allow us, if only for taking the rap and bailing out their avaricious banks and bondholders in the more recent past. – Yours, etc,
Rathgar, Dublin 6.