Brexit, the backstop and the economy
Sir, – About 50 years ago, I went to work in the East End of London for a local authority with a rehousing programme for a generation of Londoners brought up in emergency wooden prefabs, built after the 1940 Blitz by the Germans. My older colleagues included former British and Polish war veterans who had luckily survived the war and gone on to get an education, a job and a life.
Their contemporaries, the millions throughout Europe whose lives had been extinguished or utterly destroyed in the 1940s, together with the preceding generation equally devastated by the losses of millions during the Great War, stimulated the founding fathers into creating the interstate arrangement of what would eventually become the European Union.
The concept of the EU was born out of necessity rather than driven by choice.
It was conceived to save us from ourselves, and it is so sad that our UK friends just don’t appear to see it that way. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Simon Coveney writes in relation to the Northern Ireland backstop: “It is an insurance policy and we hope it doesn’t need to be used. But the backstop gives us certainty now, certainty that is essential to protect stability on this island” (“We only have 115 days to get ready for a no-deal Brexit”, Opinion & Analysis, July 8th).
This is a fundamental contradiction of his opening statement when he says that the chances of a disorderly Brexit have never been higher. The point is that we are now in an uncertain situation and the so-called backstop insurance does not apply.
It only applies if put into UK law, and the Westminster parliament has rejected it on three occasions. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Based on the level of acrimony engendered by the selective reading of the fine print attached to the Northern Ireland protocol, it would appear that a backstop that was once described by the Taoiseach as an insurance policy has instead become a final notice for our entire economy. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Simon Coveney has long mocked a UK “no-deal Brexit” in response to the Irish backstop as akin to jumping out of the window. He has now suddenly discovered that the Irish economy is attached to the UK by handcuffs and will also plunge. Unlike the UK, there will be no €50 billion parachute by way of savings from a divorce bill nor €15 billion saving every year in net EU budget contributions.
The stark fact is that the UK is happy to continue with borderless free trade: it is the EU which forbids it. The Government’s acquiescence to the EU’s insistence that Ireland cannot engage in a bilateral settlement with the UK has rendered Ireland a pawn in a German chess game – one designed to extract continued budgetary contributions from the UK and also maintain the immense German trade surplus with the UK. It is the mindset of 1914.
If the Irish and UK governments do the sensible thing and reach a bilateral free trade agreement supported by their populations, what exactly can the EU do about it? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – The gloom which has descended on the pages of The Irish Times in recent weeks is understandable given the apparent commitment of Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt to a no-deal Brexit, but both candidates for the post of UK prime minister know the underlying reality is that parliament will not allow this option to proceed, whether by default or not.
Leading Conservatives, including the British prime minister Theresa May and chancellor Philip Hammond, have warned both candidates against pursuing a no-deal strategy, and the most likely scenario is a general election sufficiently in advance of the October 31st deadline to allow either the formation of a new government or an extension to article 50.
Given the UK’s archaic and unrepresentative electoral system, it is difficult to predict the outcome of an election with confidence but opinion polls suggest Remain is now the most popular option among voters.
While Mr Johnson’s and Mr Hunt’s comments about no deal are of course disturbing, they are paralleled by increasingly shrill cries of betrayal from Brexiteers. – Yours, etc,