Brexit: what to do about the Irish border?

May will meet Juncker and Tusk today, Thursday, to discuss whether there is still any scope for an orderly Brexit. The main bone of contention is the backstop mechanism for guaranteeing an open border on the island of Ireland. The EU has made it clear that the backstop is not up for negotiation - and many commentators also stress that the solution to the border issue isn't to be found in Brussels.

Open/close all quotes
The Irish Times (IE) /

Use the Good Friday Agreement model

Resolving the Irish border issue must not be left to London and Brussels, columnist Diarmaid Ferriter writes in The Irish Times:

“It is also apparent from our history that insisting Britain alone has to solve this problem is not the answer because Britain will not frame a solution with the interests of Ireland in mind, for the same reason the Irish Border question did not feature in the Brexit referendum campaign. ... Where the solution will lie is in collaboration, once again, between London, Belfast and Dublin, with the support of the EU; an alternative version of the peace process, during which the EU was content to remain largely on the sidelines until a solution had been devised which it could then support politically and economically.”

Le Temps (CH) /

A kingdom has its price

Political adviser Blaise Bonvin praises the backstop stipulated in the Brexit deal but maintains in Le Temps that a solution to the border issue must be sought at a different level:

“When, as the Brexit demands, the moment comes for Britain to turn to its own affairs, it will focus once again on its history and its troubles of the past. And when that time comes either Northern Ireland will distance itself somewhat or a frozen but still unresolved conflict will once again resurface. ... A kingdom is costly in the long term. For that reason the solution for the Brexit is political and cultural. It's Britain's affair, and to a lesser extent Ireland's. The EU can only propose technical and administrative substitute solutions, albeit well thought-out ones.”

El País (ES) /

Tax freeloaders must make concessions too

The EU should continue to back Dublin on the border issue but the latter must make certain concessions in exchange, political analyst Carlos Closa demands in El País:

“The EU must be ready to cushion the consequences of Brexit for Ireland (including the economic ones) and it must also try to find creative solutions to the border issue. In so doing it should also take Northern Ireland's partial membership in the EU into account. But the Republic of Ireland must be prepared to send a signal of solidarity to the other states, because there is no room for fiscal sponging in a community of solidarity. And perhaps the time has come to send Ireland a clear signal that solidarity misunderstood as a one-way street has its limits.”

Belfast Telegraph (GB) /

Backstop potential disaster for UK unity

The Belfast Telegraph praises the Northern Irish unionists of the DUP for using their participation in government in the past year and a half to mobilise against the backstop:

“It is to their credit that they have grasped it with both hands and that, unlike all too many moderate and well-meaning unionists, they saw that the backstop was potentially a disaster for the unity of the United Kingdom and were prepared to incur massive unpopularity by fighting it head-on. So consistent and determined have they been that Leavers and moderate Remainers, frustrated by Brussels' intransigence, have begun to say to each other: 'Thank God for the DUP.' And at last there is a sense that unionism is coming together.”