Sunday 15 September 2019

John Downing: 'Seven things Government can do with as many weeks to 'B-Day''

 

Learning a lesson: Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson attends a history class with pupils during a visit to Pimlico Primary school in London. Photo: REUTERS/Toby Melville
Learning a lesson: Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson attends a history class with pupils during a visit to Pimlico Primary school in London. Photo: REUTERS/Toby Melville
John Downing

John Downing

Willingness to engage in convivial games like 'ludo' and 'snakes and ladders' was advised by the Justice Department for unfortunate prison officers keeping company with the even more unfortunate prisoners awaiting a date with the hangman early the following morning.

Thus, we ask what the Dublin Government can do to profitably while away the seven weeks between now and the Brexit-Day on October 31. Ludo and snakes and ladders have a limited appeal. Here are seven other ideas.

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1. KEEP YOUR NERVE

With the other remaining 26 EU states still on side, despite all the doubts, it is no time to "bottle it". It is still up to the UK government to make the next move. Ireland must still play cool, but be ever watchful.

We never set the bar so high with demands of leaving the EU single market and the customs union. Giving special status to Northern Ireland seemed a good way forward.

But then the Democratic Unionist Party insisted the North must exit the EU on the same terms as England, Wales and Scotland. We used to think the North could have the best of all worlds - a leg in the EU and another in the UK.

2. IT'S STILL ALWAYS ABOUT LANGUAGE

What if we called the "backstop" - the device which would avoid product standard checks and customs tariffs on the Border - something else? Clearly, it would have to be something which did the same thing.

But the DUP might avail of a ladder to get themselves off the high the rock it has climbed. Boris Johnson is still beholden to them - for now - but an ability to say he "gonged the backstop" could be currency in an imminent election.

3. TALK TO THE DUP - WITH CARE

Dublin can quietly signal its willingness to help the DUP. But this is ever and always tricky terrain.

The word "consent" has crept into the talk about resolving the backstop conundrum. But this is a slippery word - it cannot amount to a DUP veto on how things are sorted.

We must remember that Northern Ireland voters backed Remain 56pc to 44pc.

4. KEEP UP EU LOBBYING

So far Ireland has been successful in selling its case to Brussels and the EU capitals. Now is no time to slacken.

Phil Hogan's promotion to EU Trade Commissioner is a signal of success. Dublin must watch any late emerging compromises and realise its power to bend and shape such in these final vital weeks.

5. CROSS-PARTY SUPPORT

The "green jersey" approach from the key parties will continue to come under strain as an election beckons early next year. But it has been helpful so far and has made Irish politics seem rather grown-up in comparison with what is happening in the UK.

A cross-party approach is indispensable for where Ireland needs to go on all of this - the more so given that we have a minority Fine Gael-led Coalition propped up by Fianna Fáil.

The onus is on Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Tánaiste Simon Coveney to help all the parties stay on board.

6. KEEP ALL DUBLIN- LONDON LINKS OPEN

Boris Johnson's first formal visit to Dublin on Monday went well. But the man was being polite and his key goal is to win the upcoming election.

To get where he needs to go he may well need a late EU-UK fix.

His talk in Dublin showed he knew Leo Varadkar could help as many key EU leaders will canvass Dublin's view on any compromise. So dialogue must continue - with caution.

7. SERIOUSLY IMPROVE COMMUNICATIONS

The Irish public are in the dark about what it means for them. We understand the need for silence to not show a negotiating hand. But that's over.

Irish Independent

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