Saturday 23 February 2019

Editorial: 'May fiasco shows we must be ready for a hard border'

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: “These are no longer contingency plans. They are being
implemented by the Government.”
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: “These are no longer contingency plans. They are being implemented by the Government.”
Editorial

Editorial

Any delusions we had of putting the prospect of a hard Border to bed forever have been stripped away in Westminster. Truth doesn't change according to our ability to stomach it.

Right now, it's easier to foresee the UK crashing out of the EU without a parachute, backstop or soft landing than it is to imagine Theresa May striking a deal with Jeremy Corbyn. Therefore, the Government best come clean about how it proposes to police the Border and its 208 crossings. Whether this appalling vista is the result of British action or inaction is a moot point. It will be our problem. Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin was correct to spell out what neither Taoiseach Leo Varadkar nor his ministers have as yet been prepared to entertain. A hard Border looks increasingly likely, but the Government refuses to tell the public. Mr Martin's remarks came on the back of another hapless performance by Shane Ross, who was caught on the hop by this newspaper, saying "it was likely Border checks would be needed for goods if a no-deal Brexit happened".

This is not the way to communicate vital information to the public. The DUP can spin fantasies like "there was never a hard Border in Ireland", but the Irish Government is all too aware of its history, and how devastating its return would be. Commenting on a no deal, Mr Varadkar said: "These are no longer contingency plans. They are being implemented by the Government."

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But what are these plans? Do they include security arrangements that go with protecting the common trade area, on which the EU will eventually insist? As Mr Varadkar has said, a no deal would not protect the peace in Northern Ireland.

Memories of Fianna Fáil ministers in late November 2010 are still raw when then-­justice minister Dermot Ahern said neither he nor his ministerial college Noel Dempsey was aware of any bailout talks.

We have gone well past the point of party politics. It is hard to draw confidence from what is unfolding in the Commons. The EU can hardly come up with a solution for something the British can't yet agree is satisfactory among themselves. With no unanimity in London, how can Brussels be to blame?

Mrs May has been in office but not in power since her ill-fated election gambit in 2016.

With all other bridges burned, she is belatedly reaching out to the opposition.

Finding consensus at the 11th hour would border on the astonishing. We are moving deep into terra incognita. The disorder has accelerated. The Germans have a saying: better to have a horrible end than horror without end. Perhaps. There can be no more pretence. We may hope for the best, but must fully prepare for the worst.

Irish Independent

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