Saturday 19 January 2019

Our simple message for London: 'A deal is a deal'

Theresa May and Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels Photo: AP
Theresa May and Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels Photo: AP


Before, during and especially after the Brexit referendum of June 2016, everyone on this neighbouring island has been aware of the deep divisions in British, and especially English, society over the issue. Theresa May's ruling Conservative Party has been especially riven, with a significant rump insisting the UK must end its 44 years of EU membership as swiftly and completely as possible.

These divisions on the matter have compounded all other EU member states' problems. But it is now recognised by all other 26 EU member states that Ireland has the greatest cause for concern. The fortunes of both islands are completely enmeshed through trade, social, cultural and political links which go back centuries.

Brexit could create the only potential de facto land frontier between the UK and the European Union. The return of the bad old days of the Border is a real fear.

For the past decade, both Ireland and Britain have enjoyed a golden era of excellent bilateral relations. But the recent weeks of tough negotiations have, in the words of the Taoiseach, "strained" those excellent relations.

The events of last Friday, which saw an EU deal emerge unblocking the next phase of Brexit talks, were most encouraging. In particular, a fallback arrangement has emerged for managing things to obviate the need for a border between Ireland and the North.

It has been endorsed by the main parties, the EU and the UK, with the agreement of Ireland and the Democratic Unionist Party, each of whom had specific concerns.

But 48 hours later, UK Brexit Minister David Davis has raised doubts by styling it as "a statement of intent", rather than a legally binding move. Dublin must send a simple message to London: "A deal is a deal."

Fierce icy blast should make us all slow down

Snow has blanketed much of the country. Other places have had glacial rain and sleet. This was followed everywhere by a huge blast of freezing temperatures, making roads and footpaths treacherous.

It has all made travel extremely hazardous for a variety of reasons. The risk of death and/or serious injury on our roads has increased dramatically.

We make no apology for – yet again – pleading with everyone to travel safely. To slow down, to think, and, if at all possible, not to travel.

If those renewed injunctions appear tedious, we will still remain satisfied if only a handful of people take notice, and even one extra life is spared over these dark and freezing days. Those of us who have travelled the roads over the last 24 hours know that too many people are still driving too fast for the current road conditions. We say it again and again: slow down!

But it is also worth noting that this cold snap could offer each of us some benefits. It is a chance to slow things down and take stock. It is an opportunity to admire the beauty of nature and an excuse to chat to our neighbours. A kindly inquiry as to whether any help is required would not go amiss, especially if that neighbour is elderly or infirm.

This extreme weather offers a chance to re-think and in a small way to recalibrate what for many of us is a very busy life. It is an opportunity to slow down sometimes frenzied Christmas preparations. It’s a chance to enjoy life.

Irish Independent

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