Brexit – the clock is ticking


Sir, – With the Irish Government insisting that the backstop is the only way to protect the Belfast Agreement, and a group of British people, led by David Trimble, now taking a court case against the backstop on the grounds that it is undermining the Belfast Agreement, we are truly witnessing a dialogue of the deaf.

It is also a potentially catastrophic failure of politics. It seems to me that there is a clause in the EU-UK draft Withdrawal Agreement that, with a tiny amount of tweaking (or even just highlighting by the EU), could help to secure the support of the House of Commons. In article 18, in the section headed “Safeguards”, there is the following sentence: “If application of this Protocol leads to economic, social or environmental difficulties liable to persist, or to diversion of trade, the Union or the UK may unilaterally take appropriate measures. Such safeguard measures shall be restricted with regard to their scope and their duration to what is strictly necessary in order to remedy the situation.”

Would this not allow the United Kingdom to derogate from the backstop, should it ever come into force and lead to persistent difficulties for the UK? – Yours, etc,



Dublin 6.

Sir, – Donald Tusk should take Arlene Foster’s advice: “If you feed the crocodile it will keep coming back for more.” – Yours, etc,



Sir, – CDC Armstrong asserts (Letters, February 6th) that successive French and German administrations would not have been so enthusiastic about the European Union “were they not in permanent charge of it”.

He ought to know that the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, is Polish; the president of the European Commission, Jean-Paul Juncker, is a Luxemburger; the president of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, is an Italian, as is Mario Draghi, the president of the European Central Bank; the new executive director of Europol, Catherine De Bolle, is Belgian. Her predecessor, Bob Wainwright, who is British, was pretty well the creator of Europol as it now exists; he was forced out because of Brexit and ironically British policing authorities will no longer have access to Europol.

If France can be said to be in “charge” of the European Union, it may be because of the efficiency of French members of its civil service, but British members are just as efficient and their absence will be a sad loss to the EU after Brexit. – Yours, etc,



Co Kildare.

Sir, – Brexit has forced the centre-ground liberals to face the unpalatable fact that the UK is now poorly led and supported by a poorly educated, populist majority. This sector has been duped by the promises of people who are well positioned to ride out any financial hardships of Brexit.

The people who oppose Brexit are cast as weak, unpatriotic, woolly-headed liberals. The Brexiteers sneer at us, accusing us of stoking “project fear”, despite dire warnings from nearly every major business institution in the UK.

I will continue to campaign to remain in the EU, if for no other reason than to prevent the sacrifice of our children and grandchildren protecting a new Border. Ireland is right to be angry with the UK. Many British people sympathise with your view. – Yours, etc,




Sir, – According to Republican Congressman Peter King, a future trade deal between the US and Britain can only be considered if a soft border is maintained in Ireland (“UK told to uphold Belfast Agreement if it wants US trade”, News, February 7th).

This misses the point entirely. By definition, a trade agreement with the US – or with anywhere else – can only come about if Britain remains outside the EU customs union. Assuming that were to be the case, there would be no alternative to a hard border, either within the island of Ireland or between Northern Ireland and the UK mainland. If US politicians favour the latter, they should have the courage to say so openly.

It is unfortunate that over two years after this debate began, important and influential participants continue to try to fudge the key elements involved. – Yours, etc,


Chevy Chase,


Sir, – Jeremy Corbyn’s legally binding conditions if his party is to back Theresa May’s Brexit deal suddenly make a second referendum look more likely (“Corbyn offers May terms on backing softer version of Brexit deal”, News, February 6th).

There’s very little chance that Mrs May will accept the Labour leader’s terms, especially a permanent customs union and close alignment to the single market.

The British prime minister is equally unlikely to coax enough out of the EU to allow her to build the Tory-DUP majority necessary to get a deal through the House of Commons.

The UK could soon face a straight choice, therefore, between a no-deal crash out and going back to the people for another vote.

Recently, it’s become commonplace in the media to label Mr Corbyn as “pro-Brexit”. However, he might be playing a craftier game than most commentators are ever likely to give him credit for. – Yours, etc,


Arbour Hill,

Dublin 7.

Sir, – Am I alone in wondering how some of the current occupants of Hell must be feeling at the thought of Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson, et al, one day joining their ranks – and in the special place! Can your readers imagine the cries for a Hellexit? – Yours, etc,



Co Cork.