Wednesday 22 January 2020

No 'happy ever after' unless Border solution 'cuts the mustard'

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Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Once upon a time in the land of Brexit… All the best fairy tales are filled with colour characters, lots of tension, some plot twists and ultimately a happy ever after.

All the best fairy tales are filled with colour characters, lots of tension, some plot twists and ultimately a happy ever after.

There's no doubt that Brexit has many of these values, but the ending is a work in progress.

Ireland has offered our preferred way to let people sleep comfortably at night, but the UK doesn't like it.

In fact, Theresa May says she could never sign off on a deal that effectively saw Northern Ireland stay inside the EU for trade purposes.

But the UK prime minister hasn't been able to come up with an alternative that, in the words of Leo Varadkar, "cuts the mustard".

Britain's former ambassador to the EU Ivan Rogers went so far as to say that UK hopes of finding a technological solution to the Border issue were regarded as "a fantasy island unicorn model" in European capitals.

Various deadlines are on the table - but sources in the Irish Government are becoming increasingly bullish about June.

They say Mrs May doesn't have to hand over her final draft of the Border solution, but they want a clear direction of travel.

Expect to repeatedly hear the phrase "significant and measurable progress" over the coming months when ministers and EU representatives are asked their view on what needs to happen by June.

If that doesn't proceed then we will fall into 'crisis' mode very quickly because the plan is to have everything ready for the printers by October/November.

For all our history, the British aren't out to hurt us. Dublin believes they have engaged in self-harm and merely want to find some form of normality.

UK minister David Lidington will come here early next week to discuss the situation with Tánaiste Simon Coveney.

Mr Coveney will offer the UK all the tea and sympathy in the world while remaining firmly on the side of the EU.

On Monday week, the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier will come to Dublin again. He's the man we really want to entertain.

Mr Barnier was keen for Ireland to allow the negotiators to move onto the 'future relationship' in recent months.

The Taoiseach agreed to this on the basis that the Irish issue would continue to be explored in the background.

Heavy work was done on the Irish question over Easter, but that has largely amounted to nothing.

"We've given 'the future' a chance but we can't let our issues go unanswered until October," a source said last night.

That means Mrs May has 10 weeks to stop this becoming an even more tragic tale.

Irish Independent

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