What to do about Brexit?


Sir, – On the morning of January 14th, 1965, as the dawn broke over Dublin, the then taoseach Seán Lemass, accompanied by his principal public servant, TK Whitaker, set out on the most unlikely of journeys, to cross the Border with Northern Ireland for a meeting with Lemass’s counterpart, Captain Terence O’Neill.

For days previously, in an atmosphere “of a James Bond type” as he recalled, Whitaker had made the necessary arrangements for the controversial trip which for the first time in 43 years would break the wall of silence that had developed between the leaders of the two parts of Ireland.

The visit was conducted in an atmosphere of the utmost secrecy, necessary at the time, because, as Whitaker noted, “we did not want to give time for people who might be against it to stir up trouble on both sides”. Indeed Lemass had almost returned to Dublin before the historic meeting hit the international media wires.

Given the times, the meeting was a courageous and generous gesture on the part of Lemass and O’Neill both of whom had much to lose from sections of their respective die-hard followers. But as the statesmen they were they balanced the negativity by the more positive results economically forthcoming when dialogue replaced silence and common sense and goodwill replaced suspicion.

Fifty-three years later, albeit a different time, perhaps the same courage and generosity might be shown by the present-day leaders of Northern Ireland and the Republic. Perhaps as the dawns breaks over Dublin, over the coming days, the Taoiseach might travel secretly northwards on the invitation of Arlene Foster and, replacing suspicion and antagonism with trust and common sense, find a way out of the present Border conundrum to ensure the future economic prosperity of both their communities, North and South.

Imagine the reaction if the two Irish leaders, with vision and statesmanship, out of ear of the media circus, managed to achieve that which European and British leaders seem incapable of achieving. – Yours, etc,



Rathgar, Dublin 6.

Sir, –   In the context of the current Brexit debate relating to the backstop, Gerry Moriarty quotes a senior DUP source as saying that “people don’t get how unionists react when there is a perceived threat to the union” (“What – if anything – would satisfy the DUP in negotiations?”, Home News, December 13th). It is, of course, quite correct to describe the so-called threat to the union arising from the backstop as “perceived” because it is not real.

In fact, it is being misrepresented by the DUP and its current allies in Westminster in order to prevent a soft Brexit. The only political threat arising from Brexit is the real possibility of the Belfast Agreement being undermined.

Contrary to the view of the “well-placed” DUP source, I am quite sure that, over the past 30 years, people are now well aware of how the DUP has reacted to many of the political initiatives in Northern Ireland which eventually brought peace and reconciliation.

It is worth recalling that the DUP was the only major political party in the North to oppose the Belfast Agreement, which is now a de facto part of the constitution of the United Kingdom, having been fully approved by voters North and South. Indeed, the legal commentator David Allen Green has described the agreement as “a core constitutional text of the UK and Ireland, of more everyday importance than hallowed instruments such as Magna Carta”.

The real issue, in terms of democracy, is that the DUP does not represent the wishes of the people of Northern Ireland who voted decisively to remain in the EU and this democratic choice has been effectively endorsed and re-emphasised by the business and farming communities in the North in their public support for the agreement currently on the table.

Surely, it is now time for the DUP to delete the word “democratic” from the party’s title in order to avoid any further confusion. – Yours, etc,


Terenure, Dublin 12.

Sir, – People keep talking about democracy. The referendum was advisory. We have representative democracy.

The people advised our representatives to leave the EU. Our representatives in the parliament have tried their level best and find that to leave without a deal is not acceptable, they have also come to the conclusion that there isn’t any deal that is acceptable to the majority in the parliament.

Under these circumstances they have no choice but to inform the public that the only option is to, regrettably, not accept their advice and for us to remain in the EU.

This is not thwarting the will of the people, it is simply recognising that the people can give advice, but it is the responsibility of the parliament to decide. – Yours, etc,


Bushey, UK.

Sir, – A no-deal Brexit is inevitable if the United Kingdom does not hold a second referendum on EU membership.

This is the only way that the British government can relinquish itself of the mess in Westminster.

A second referendum would not be a betrayal of the vote in 2016. Instead it would demonstrate good leadership and reduce the prospect of economic despair for Britain and Ireland. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 14.

Sir, – The solution to the Brexit fiasco is as simple as it is obvious. The UK needs to take a step back and undertake a comprehensive, internal process to find a consensus as to how it wishes to move forward.

When this is completed, whether it takes a month, a year or even 10 years, it should then approach the EU and negotiate. Can anybody logically disagree with this? – Yours, etc,



Sir, – If the UK continues with its stated intention to leave the EU there will eventually be different tariffs and regulations for goods, services, capital and migration.

There is no logical feasible alternative to a hard border to manage this situation.

That is why the EU already has hard borders on all its other flanks.

This “backstop emperor” has no clothes. Even if Theresa May succeeds in getting the current agreement through parliament, it will simply kick the can down the road for a few years, but the “emperor” will still have no clothes.

I suggest the Irish Government considers removing the backstop issue, but in exchange for a major compensation package from the UK.

Otherwise, in the event of a no-deal UK exit, Ireland would have to erect a hard border, and receive catastrophic loss in return.

In the meantime, the Government has implied that it is governed by the fear of violence, and has made little effort to quantify the price of a hard border, or even soft border. – Yours, etc,




Sir, – Cliff Taylor’s suggestion that a hard border can be avoided by checks on goods as they leave Irish ports and airports for the continent has the virtue of simplicity and practicality – which means it won’t be accepted by anyone (“Ireland may face very uncomfortable choices in a no-deal Brexit”, Opinion, December 15th). – Yours, etc,


Gaoth Dobhair

Co Dhún na nGall,

Sir, – Will somebody please explain why allowing the British electorate a second opportunity to express a view on Brexit represents a “betrayal” of a 52/48 per cent majority opinion expressed over two years ago?

In the intervening period Theresa May has lost her parliamentary majority thanks to the same electorate and has continually adjusted her Brexit “red lines”. The same passage of time has seen the British voter discover for the first time the subtleties (and attendant problems) of a hard Brexit, a soft Brexit, a Mrs May Brexit, a Norway, a Canada and a Canada plus.

Only someone as tin-eared as Mrs May could ignore such tectonic changes and their relevance to informed decision taking. – Yours, etc,


Co Cork.

Sir, – The backstop is being pushed front and centre. Everyone is taking a tough stance. Nobody is giving an inch. No one dares blink.

Treating the negotiation like a high stakes poker game plays well to the gallery, but risks creating lasting enmity.

If all parties wish to work together in the future, then all need to seek compromise, not victory.

We need less posturing, more goodwill, and a greater effort at diplomacy. – Yours, etc,


Templeogue, Dublin 6W.