From today, it’s precisely six weeks to “B-day”. Barring another solution, at 11pm Irish time, or midnight in mainland Europe, on Friday, March 29, the UK will crash out of the European Union without a deal.
That appalling vista leaves many of us facing economic carnage. There is no exaggeration attaching to this – and the assumption everything will somehow come right at two minutes to midnight is lamentably fallacious.
We are looking at what one rather politically correct commentator yesterday told ‘Newstalk’ was “brinks-personship”. Again and again we have heard very strong assertions of EU support for Ireland on the Border backstop, even as pressure builds on Brussels from a chaotic and divided London political elite.
Amid the maelstrom yesterday the respected news agency Reuters reported from Brussels that if we face “no-deal” Brexit in 42 days’ time, Ireland will face some grim choices.
Nothing will happen immediately. But soon Ireland will have to choose between “a hard north-south Border”, or keeping the island of Ireland as a single unit.
If we opt for the island-of-Ireland solution, that would involve trade-checks between Ireland and the mainland of Europe. Nothing good there.
Now, two health warnings occur here. One is these kind of warnings are not new, and they are the logical conclusion of assessing the world as it may be – if no other arrangements, permanent or interim, are put in place.
The second caveat is that such speculative and “sourced” reporting must be set against the most continuous and explicit reassurances from many EU kingpins that Irish interests will be protected despite Brexit horrors.
Well, this is a rather paranoid time for Ireland, politically. Many people will remember the old adage: “Just because I’m paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not all out to get me.” This writer prefers the more honed view which pervades good politics: “Paranoia is total awareness.”
It tells us everything must be carefully weighed, the salt cellar must be kept full and close to hand, and deployed regularly.
In Ireland, we have known from the start the Border issue is an EU-UK issue. Despite huge Irish and British interests in the matter, it cannot be resolved between London and Dublin.
The EU has done more than any other entity since 1920 to minimise the Border in Ireland. Nobody in Brussels or the other capitals wants to undo that superb work which epitomises why the EU exists.
Against that, the EU border-free single market, created since January 1993, must be protected. The freedom to move capital, goods, services and people across the remaining 27 member states has big implications for the Irish Border in a post-Brexit world. We need an EU-UK exit deal.
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