Hard choices as Brexit looms


Sir, – A “hard Brexit”, in which Britain leaves the EU without any agreement in place to soften the edges of that abrupt transition, appears inevitable. The details of what “softening” might be desired by Britain have, of course, not yet been agreed or even clearly expressed by the British government. The reaction of the remaining EU members to British desires cannot begin to be formed until after these details becomes clear.

Given the difficulty in getting one member state to agree internally upon such a complex matter, the notion that the remainder will quickly fall into line to agree a common negotiating position is optimistic, to say the least. Each member state has different commercial and political relationships with Britain, and there will be many issues upon which members will be seeking terms that are diametrically opposed.

Once the EU has a position, then it can begin the process of negotiating with Britain. At each stage of talks, any terms tentatively agreed by British and EU representatives will need to be brought back to the individual governments for official approval.

We have seen from recent referendums in Ireland, the Netherlands and elsewhere, and the troubled ratification of the recent EU trade deal with Canada, that even when the politicians and bureaucrats have largely come to consensus, it takes only one dissenting voice to derail things.

With weak minority or coalition governments in several EU countries, the ability of politicians to provide strong leadership is much diminished and fringe groups with special interests have more power than ever before.

Economic conditions in general and in Italy and Greece in particular, are fraught. Political upheaval is ongoing in Poland and Hungary, and elections are imminent in France and Germany. There is also little doubt that powers outside the EU, such as Russia, the US, China and far-right and Islamic groups will seek to influence or disrupt things to further their interests.

With the best will in the world, it is hard to see that unanimous agreement from all member states will be forthcoming to ratify anything but the most simple of agreements within a two-year period. Ireland, Britain, and their EU partners should plan and prepare in earnest for a hard Brexit. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 7.

Sir, – Sir Ivan Rogers’s remarks have a ring of blunt realism: he is assessing the forces lined up against proposed British actions, and his assessment is obviously unacceptable to the “wishful thinking” of Brexiteers (“Irish fear of hard Brexit grows as UK’s top EU envoy quits”, January 4th).

If we in Ireland are to be similarly honest, should we not be asking this question – what would happen if a newly revitalised, encouraged and motivated republican movement, outside the control of our government, simply says, “No. We will not allow you to set the clock back and reaffirm the partition of our island by building new barriers and customs posts along the Border, and we will take up arms to prevent you doing so”?

The consequences of such a stance would be unthinkable, but if we are honest, we must realise that that position would resonate with many people, and that it is folly to refuse to even contemplate the possibility that Britain’s actions would effectively create a new, stronger version of an illegal organisation which could plunge our country back into armed conflict.

We can no longer afford to tiptoe around issues such as this, and allow the blundering of this deluded British government risk such terrible collateral damage to our country.

Sir Ivan Rogers is right: it’s time for plain talking. – Yours, etc,


Dún Laoghaire,

Co Dublin.