Row over Irish border escalates

The conflict over the Irish border intensified over the weekend. Ireland's European commissioner Phil Hogan urged London to remain in the customs union and the single market after Brexit, but the British trade secretary Liam Fox categorically rejected both proposals. Dublin is threatening to block the Brexit negotiations if London doesn't guarantee an open border. What's at stake here?

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The Daily Telegraph (GB) /

Voters should decide on Northern Ireland's future

It should not be left to London, Dublin and much less Brussels to decide the nature of Northern Ireland's future ties with the EU, the Daily Telegraph writes:

“It should be up to the people of Northern Ireland to decide whether to follow UK regulations and risk provoking Irish trade barriers, or whether they would rather just follow EU rules. ... Arch-unionists will object that this gives away too much by entrenching a special status for Northern Ireland within the UK. But the Good Friday Agreement itself bestowed special status upon the region. We should let its voters, not the Irish or British governments – and least of all the EU – chart their own course between Britain and Ireland after Brexit.”

Dagens Nyheter (SE) /

Three options that London doesn't like

Dagens Nyheter illustrates just how tricky the border question is:

“If the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland is left permeable British goods could enter the EU through the Northern Irish back door. ... Businesses in Northern Ireland would have free access both to the EU and the UK. That would be a strange arrangement. The British could live with it, but not France or Germany. A hard border, however, would be an economic blow to the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Moreover there are fears that the violence in the North could flare up again. ... The best option would be for Britain to remain in the single market, and the second-best for it to at least remain in the EU customs union. And if not, at least Northern Ireland should belong to it. The problem is, however, that London doesn't like any of these three options.”

The Irish Times (IE) /

London has nothing positive to offer

The lack of constructive proposals from London puts Dublin in an awkward situation, the Irish Times complains:

“So far the British commitment goes no further than promising to do everything possible to avoid a 'hard Border'. ... Ireland needs a smooth outcome to the talks, and as long a transition period as possible after Britain leaves the EU to allow new arrangements to be finalised and enacted. A breakdown in the talks and the UK crashing out without a deal would also mean significant economic threats for us. Balancing the different objectives will not be easy for the Government, particularly given the unrealistic and volatile nature of the UK position.”

The Guardian (GB) /

An act of hostility towards Ireland

With its hard Brexit stance the British government is putting the Northern Irish peace process and Ireland's economic stability in jeopardy, the Guardian admonishes angrily:

“To much of Europe, Brexit appears to be an exercise in British self-harm, which it is. But in Ireland Brexit is potentially lethal too. If the UK government’s policy is followed, the border between north and south will become hard not soft, guarded not unguarded, controlled not free. The consequences of this change could be deeply destructive to the peace process and secure life. But, even more than that, they would be a gratuitous act of hostility towards the Irish economy and people.”

Trud (BG) /

Peace and prosperity under threat

Trud also fears that all that Ireland has achieved in recent years may be at risk now:

“Unlike the British, the Irish are not hot-headed. They matter-of-factly weigh up their political positions and actions. This is how they created the Celtic tiger. ... In less than 20 years they managed to reinvent themselves as a culture and a nation. Since the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 they have transformed from bomb-throwing Catholics who hated the Protestant English, and become a country of four-leaf clovers, leprechauns, St. Patrick’s Day, Celtic folk music, Michael Flatley, Riverdance, Irish pubs, whisky. They don't want to let the British ruin all that for them again.”