On this island where the art of compromise is perfected and practised with exacting expertise: Why does Brexit cause the southern Irish so much grief? If one accepts the validity and legitimacy of the ballot box, we (the entirety of the United Kingdom) voted to leave the European Union. I hear the siren calls for a second referendum ‘because Northern Ireland voted to remain it should stay in the E.U.’ Stretching the corollary of that nonsense: My constituency of Strangford voted to leave. There would be a marked switch in opinion if we were to be sub-divided with leaver constituencies exiting the E.U. – and remainers staying. A new partition drawn up on Brexit lines isn’t on.
It’s at this point when Northern Irelanders must stop, think and take stock of where this percolating resistance to Brexit might land us. Further down the line I offer a serious suggestion for consideration by Mr. Varadkar.
But first, allow me to grab your attention. I have deep concerns about how we will end up in the aftermath of Brexit. It’s dangerous to go there as an afterthought. We are for sure leaving the E. U. – but we are leaving scattered around acrimonious bitterness piled high. Me too; I have made – and even in this piece make some jaw jangling comments reeling from nationalist aggression, throwing the kitchen sink at unionists over Brexit.
Leaving the E.U. will not impair continued peace, it does not impact on the Belfast Agreement, nor will it facilitate calls for an early plebiscite on Irish unity. Predictably, the unionist reaction to such facile threats and bullying by the Irish is to circle its wagons around self-preservation and protectionism. So when I ask to stop, think and take stock: I respectfully suggest that outsiders like Simon Coveney do likewise. There is always a villain of the peace, and the Foreign Affairs Minister (with emphasis on foreign) plays his part with consummate ease .
From a unionist perspective – it would be so refreshing instead of berating the British on how the border must be managed, to hear Mr. Coveney spell out precisely what level of checks, controls and patrols his government will put into place as a consequence of Brexit? Is it that they do not believe – or do not want to believe that shared technology is capable of outwitting their kidology? If Mr. Coveney genuinely desires (as unionism does) to trade freely across this island – without creating barriers and to see co-operation between our police and security forces: Then lets get on with perfecting the art of compromise to our peoples mutual benefit.
A few days ago – I put this suggestion to my good friend Nigel Farage MEP – How would it work if the Irish asked for an E.U. dispensation to agree a special status in the island of Ireland to trade internally with Northern Ireland (i.e. special status given to Dublin purely for cross-border trade and traffic.) He replied immediately by text: “The W.T.O. could help with that on the grounds of political sensitivity. The E.U. will give no dispensation.”
Now isn’t it alarming that with Nigel’s wealth of experience in E.U. affairs, in his judgement – the E.U. would give ‘no dispensation’. But isn’t it very interesting that he says the E.U. ‘should’ give dispensation. My suggestion is all and only about an inter-island trade agreement – with no need for a customs union or backstop(s) – just basic, practical common sense. They (the Irish Republic) stay in the E.U. and we (Northern Ireland) stay in the U.K. (and UK Internal Market, with no barriers between any part of the U.K.) – we remain friendly, and we work to boost our separate economies .
Not once since or before Brexit have the Southern Irish Government pursued a creative solution to resolve the intractable so called Irish border. Heaven forbid that they have forgotten its British on the other side. Well how about it Mr. Varadkar – make a call to Mrs. May, and ask her to support a plan for E.U. dispensation to operate a special-status trading agreement with Northern Ireland. She is unlikely to refuse!
Opinion Piece by David McNarry
(Former UKIP MLA and Leader in Northern Ireland.)