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UK's exit from lockdown and EU pose threats here

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A City of London worker cleans pavements on Lombard Street in the City of London, after the Prime Minister Boris Johnson said people who cannot work from home should be 'actively encouraged' to return to their jobs. Photo: Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire

A City of London worker cleans pavements on Lombard Street in the City of London, after the Prime Minister Boris Johnson said people who cannot work from home should be 'actively encouraged' to return to their jobs. Photo: Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire

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A City of London worker cleans pavements on Lombard Street in the City of London, after the Prime Minister Boris Johnson said people who cannot work from home should be 'actively encouraged' to return to their jobs. Photo: Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire

Ireland has much to fear from the UK's efforts to get out of both the Covid-19 lockdown over the next few months and the EU entirely by the end of the year. Unfortunately we are not in step on either issue. The lack of a co-ordinated and coherent EU response to both doesn't help our position.

Different rules on travel and quarantine on both sides of the Irish Sea are just one area of contention. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has decided people arriving into England from Ireland and France will be excluded from quarantine rules which require people to self-isolated for two weeks.

In Ireland, all passengers arriving from overseas are required to self-isolate for two weeks. The Government is also in the process of making it mandatory for all arrivals to fill in a passenger location form so authorities can check up on them.

In Britain, there was confusion yesterday over Johnson's 2,000-word TV address on Sunday night. Some who could not work from home clearly took his advice to return to work but many ignored his call to avoid public transport.

Even the 'Daily Telegraph', which used to lionise its former well-paid columnist, was somewhat critical of his speech.

"The Long Road to Freedom" was the Churchillian sounding front page headline but further down the page an associate editor complained that "yes, we had finally been given a 'roadmap', but one with only vague directions. Ordnance Survey this wasn't".

It got worse when the same paper reported online later that government sources were forced to clarify contradictory comments made by Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab about returning to work and about contact with family members.

The devolved administrations of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are sticking, for the moment at least, with the UK government's previous call to "stay at home' rather than use the insipid "stay alert" mantra.

Belfast and Dublin have been working together behind the scenes on their responses to the coronavirus and the Assembly is publishing its own detailed plans.

Good communications and relations between both parts of the island are essential to achieve harmony in the fight against the virus but also in making common cause for the eventual full withdrawal of the UK from the European Union.

It is due to leave the single market and customs union by the end of the year. Johnson is demanding the outline of a deal for an EU-Britain summit in June, which is a tall order.

Without a deal the 499km border between North and South becomes a major political issue once again. That's the last thing a new government in Dublin will need as it struggles to find money to reboot the economy.

Irish Independent