Monday 15 July 2019

Kevin Doyle: 'We cannot rely on Arlene and Boris to fix Border'


Downing Street: DUP deputy and Westminster leader Nigel Dodds and leader Arlene Foster in London yesterday. Photo: PA
Downing Street: DUP deputy and Westminster leader Nigel Dodds and leader Arlene Foster in London yesterday. Photo: PA
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Remember Theresa May said 'Brexit means Brexit'?

It was in July 2016 before she was even prime minster. The meaningless slogan was central to her campaign to take over from David Cameron as leader of the Conservative Party.

"There will be no attempts to remain inside the EU, no attempts to rejoin it by the back door, and no second referendum," she said.

"The country voted to leave the European Union, and as prime minister I will make sure that we leave the European Union."

Two-and-a-half years later she is still scrambling to define Brexit against the backdrop of a national meltdown in the UK. This crisis was not created by the voters who were hoodwinked and lied to during the referendum but by politicians who have been afraid to admit the truth in the vacuum since.

The question of the Irish Border never crossed their minds at any stage in advance of the vote, and if it did they certainly did not want it become part of the public discourse.

So when former Taoiseach Enda Kenny began his whistlestop tour of European capitals to plead our case it caught many, particularly in the UK press, by surprise.

But a solution was eventually found. The EU, along with Ireland, came to Mrs May's aid with a workable way of securing frictionless trade and protecting peace.

The backstop is an Irish solution to a British problem which may well be why so many in the Conservative Party and DUP are opposed to it.

Its emphatic rejection by the House of Commons has set the progress back dramatically, although the Irish Government is still clinging to the hope that it will be resurrected. What isn't being said in Dublin is that the DUP's strength has only increased this week.

Arlene Foster's party, which remains steadfastly opposed to the backstop, saved Mrs May's bacon in the no-confidence vote on Wednesday. Had the DUP's 10 MPs gone against the prime minister then her race would finally have been run.

Mrs May has been unwilling to fall down despite the barrage of criticism, confidence motions and chaos. But standing up isn't the same as moving forward.

So we must now start to contemplate what happens if she can't secure enough support for the backstop.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has a very rehearsed line when asked that question.

"The onus is on Westminster to come up with solutions that they can support," he said this week.

"But they must be solutions the EU and Ireland can accept. We have always said that if the UK were to evolve from its red lines on the customs union and the single market, the European position would evolve also."

The Taoiseach reckons it is "up to those who rejected that deal to come up with an alternative solution to honour their commitment to avoiding a hard Border".

In other words we are relying on Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Jeremy Corbyn and Arlene Foster to devise a Plan B for the Border.

Think about that. Johnson and Rees-Mogg couldn't give a toss about Ireland. Corbyn has had to repeatedly deny he was a supporter of the IRA during the Troubles. And Foster believes talk about a hard Border is "a bit of a nonsense". She argued: "We never had a hard Border in Ireland."

There are obvious reasons why the Irish Government must keep the dream of the backstop alive as long as possible. Almost everybody on this island is hoping for a turn in the course of history that makes Brexit less painful than the current diagnosis.

But the time has come for our own politicians to tell us the difficult truth. Even Sinn Féin's Mary Lou McDonald told the Dáil yesterday it's time "to say out loud" that in the absence of a deal we'll be faced with a hard Border.

EU rules say as much so we certainly can't rely on the UK to salvage this disaster.

Irish Independent

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