The British government’s plans for the Border
Sir, – Now that we finally have sight of the UK’s Irish Border proposals, it should be recognised that contrary to much of the initial commentary, they are not “unworkable”.
Unrealistic, divisive, disingenuous and even delusional, perhaps, but not unworkable. They would work perfectly well in precisely one set of circumstances – “Eirexit” from the EU. A tidy, seawater border would encircle the British and Irish isles. Rather than paying tariffs on the 20 per cent of our exports destined for the UK, we would instead pay tariffs on the 80 per cent we export to everywhere else on Earth.
Such a course of action would do untold damage to our international trade, economy, reputation and attractiveness, but a “frictionless” Border between North and South would be achieved. Thankfully, recent polling indicates we are in no danger of following the Brexit lemming off this cliff. These proposals are a deeply cynical gambit that the UK is well aware cannot be delivered. – Yours, etc,
BARRY FLANAGAN ,
Sir, – I was delighted to hear Simon Coveney refer to the astounding anomaly that will exist in Ireland when the UK leaves the EU.
Every citizen in Northern Ireland, under the terms of the Belfast Agreement, has a birthright to EU citizenship.
Since both the UK and the EU have expressed their determination to protect the Belfast Agreement, this already affords special status to Northern Ireland. Perhaps that might be extended in the economic sphere, as well. – Yours, etc,
A chara, – I can’t help but feel that the British government’s Brexit proposals are like a child’s scribbled drawing that its parents are forced to admire. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – I approached the British government’s Brexit position paper on the Irish issues with cautious optimism. Finally, I thought, we will see some creativity and understanding brought to bear on this delicate subject. After all, the politicians and civil servants have had 14 months since the vote to ponder the options. I was, inevitably, disappointed.
Only six paragraphs into the document, the principle of consent in the Belfast Agreement is defined as “that Northern Ireland’s constitutional status is a matter for the people of Northern Ireland alone to determine”. This couldn’t be more wrong. The principle is actually, as set out in Article 1 of the Belfast Agreement, that “it is for the people of the island of Ireland alone, by agreement between the two parts respectively” to determine Northern Ireland’s constitutional status. That is a fundamental difference.
The acknowledgement by the British government and the unionist community that the people of the Republic of Ireland have a legitimate interest in the constitutional future of Northern Ireland was the entire basis for the subsequent peace. It is the reason that the agreement was put to parallel referendums on both sides of the border. It was upon the basis of the inclusion of a joint and co-equal role for the 26 counties that the IRA laid down and decommissioned arms, and turned towards peace. For this not to be reflected in the final draft of the Her Majesty’s government’s flagship paper on Northern Ireland and Brexit must be a worrying portent for the negotiations ahead.
It has been reported that there was no substantive consultation with the Northern Irish political parties before the paper was published. Given the misunderstanding of the basis of the peace process that it contains, one must wonder whether the Northern Ireland Office was similarly excluded. – Yours, etc,