Wednesday 13 December 2017

'Theresa May speaks on Irish matters with maturity that's shockingly absent in EU remarks' - Tony Barber

Tony Barber, Europe Editor and Associate Editor at the Financial Times in London, addressed the crowd at the IIEA
Tony Barber, Europe Editor and Associate Editor at the Financial Times in London, addressed the crowd at the IIEA
Catherine Devine

Catherine Devine

Renowned European journalist Tony Barber said that Theresa May has so far handled Irish Brexit matters with "caution and maturity".

Speaking to the Institute of International & European Affairs (IIEA), Tony Barber, Europe Editor and Associate Editor at the Financial Times in London, said that "maturity should prevail".

Mr Barber argued that Theresa May's government will no longer be able to evade necessary choices between 'hard' and 'soft' Brexit, and that these decisions may expose the internal contradictions of the political and electoral coalition that rejected EU membership in June 2016.

Mr Barber analysed the possible impact this will have on British politics in 2017 and what Brexit will mean for Ireland.

"What can be predicted with some confidence is that the EU will not tamely grant Britain privileged market access to sector such as car manufacturers. There will be no room for pick and choose tactics in our negotiations."

He said the leave vote was inspired by "insecurity, not joblessness but falling living standards, poorly paid work, shrinking welfare state and the feeling that the gap is widening every year between the advances in technology and the possibility of social and economic improvement".

"In her speech May was almost brutal in ruling out special Brexit arrangements for Scotland but this does not necessarily accelerate the time frame for a second vote on Scottish independence.

"As for UK- Irish relations, the priority must be to preserve the common travel area between the north and republic, to avoid customs, trade and investment barriers and most crucial of all to uphold the peace process and promote harmonious community relations in Northern Ireland."

He said that so far, Theresa May has handled Irish matters with "caution".

"May and her ministers have so far spoken on Irish matters with caution and even maturity that are often shockingly absent on their remarks with the EU.

"I expect the sense of maturity to prevail no matter how fraught the negotiations become."

However he said constitutional instability in the UK "cannot fail to have profound implications for the republic".

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