Tuesday 22 October 2019

Kevin Doyle: 'With UK more confused than ever on Brexit, we must now retain our focus'


Palace of Westminster. Photo: PA
Palace of Westminster. Photo: PA
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

A flurry of excitement rippled through the Government Press Centre back in December 2017 when Donald Tusk told us "the key to the UK's future lies, in some ways, in Dublin".

For some time Irish politicians had told us as a remaining member of the EU our interests would be protected in the Brexit negotiations.

But still feeling the burn of austerity, many people were understandably sceptical of domestic reassurances.

The message brought from Brussels by the EU Council president was widely welcomed here and grabbed headlines in the UK.

"I realise that for some British politicians this may be hard to understand but such is the logic behind the fact that Ireland is an EU member while the UK is leaving," Mr Tusk said.

He would return to Dublin in March 2018 to remind us that the EU is a family of nations and "in times of trouble families come together and stand with each other".

On that occasion he used the phrase "Ireland first".

The solidarity shown by EU member states in the interim has been astonishing.

With the exception of some momentary blips, most noticeably from the Poles, other countries have stood steadfastly behind Ireland.

Yet all of that has been forgotten by the contenders to be the next UK prime minister.

Boris Johnson wants to kick the problem down the road, arguing the answer to the Border question will evolve during the implementation phase.

Jeremy Hunt believes the EU is prepared to look at a deal that does not require the backstop.

Sajid Javid thinks that simply paying the Irish Government "hundreds of millions" will resolve the issue.

The narrative emerging from London is increasingly hollow and hostile. At times the MPs have painted Ireland as a fickle disrupter which is merely trying to make life difficult rather than protect its own interest.

That's likely to be the attitude the winner brings to Brussels when they take over from Theresa May at the end of July.

That's why Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Tánaiste Simon Coveney must now redouble their diplomatic efforts.

While our EU agenda is focused almost exclusively on Brexit, other countries have much broader concerns ranging from migration to cyberterrorism.

With Mr Tusk and EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on the way out, it is vital that their successors are equally tuned into the real Irish story.

The story of how Border posts and violence gave way to an all-island economy and peace. Not the narrative of a pesky neighbour who doesn't know its place on the map.

With Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn now formally backing a second referendum on a Brexit deal, the UK is more confused than ever.

We must be more sure in our objectives than ever.

Irish Independent

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