Row over customs checks: ire in Northern Ireland

Just a month after the Brexit transition period ended, Northern Ireland is once again a bone of contention. First of all the EU had considered checks at the border of Ireland and Northern Ireland to prevent exports of the Astrazeneca vaccine from the EU. Then Brussels temporarily withdrew its inspectors from Northern Irish ports in response to threats of violence from pro-British unionists who oppose checks of shipments from the UK.

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

London must stop making trouble

Apparently London wants to sidestep the Brexit agreement over Northern Ireland, The Irish Independent criticises:

“Britain's wish to leave has to be recognised. But the UK must also respect its relationship with the EU as defined by the agreement. Making ultimatums or endorsing disruptive campaigns can only create further friction. The menace of sinister para-military style groups in the North must be faced down, not indulged. We have moved beyond that ... The difficulties and delays with freight and imports are regrettable. They can be fixed with a bit of flexibility and good will, not by threats or intimidation.”

El País (ES) /

Don't give in to blackmail

The EU must admit it has made mistakes but it must not give in, warns El País:

“London is now trying to exploit the situation to blame the EU for the unpleasant situation the Northern Irish are starting to realise they face as a result of Brexit, and to push for a renegotiation of the deal. ... The 27 member states will have to respond to those requests that are to solve specific problems, but the system must not be changed due to either threats coming from Northern Ireland or pressure from Johnson. The EU Commission made a mistake. And it quickly corrected it. ... But that must not serve as an excuse for blackmail aimed at concealing the reality of Brexit from the Northern Irish and the rest of the British people for a few more months.”

Le Monde (FR) /

Tensions damaging for everyone concerned

Le Monde also calls for cooperation instead of confrontation:

“Such recklessness raises questions about the functioning, coherence and accountability of the European executive. ... An escalation of the disputes between London and the twenty-seven must be avoided at all costs, not only so as to maintain peace in Ireland, but also in order to escape wrangling that would be damaging to both sides. The clash over vaccines makes it clear: Britain is now a competitor of the EU. That's a logical consequence of Brexit. In this new situation, the EU must resolutely defend its interests, not forgetting that because of their shared geography and history the British and the Europeans are doomed to cooperate.”

Financial Times (GB) /

Don't let the hardliners have the say

Both Brussels and London should now focus on de-escalation, the Financial Times urges:

“As rancour over negotiations fades, there is a chance to compromise. For the EU that may mean extending the grace periods and derogations from rules specific to the island of Ireland. Britain could consider adopting EU food hygiene rules, as Switzerland does, reducing frictions at the border. The EU and UK need to be constantly mindful of the sensitivities of both communities in the province. But, in the meantime, it is unconscionable that hardline unionists should be allowed to dictate whether the Brexit agreement is implemented in good faith.”

The Irish Times (IE) /

Union with Dublin is the logical step

The Northern Irish should leave the UK - especially if Scotland also opts for that route, argues Brendan Boyle, congressman in the US House of Representatives, in The Irish Times:

“Northern Ireland remaining in a union with only Wales and England would be an odd fit, especially given many of those in Northern Ireland who identify as British do so via their Scottish heritage. ...Second, the economic case for Irish unity is profound. The status quo for Northern Ireland has not worked economically. A century ago, Northern Ireland's economy was double that of the rest of Ireland. Today, the Republic of Ireland's economy is six times that of the North.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

Threat of violence looming large again

A solution must be found immediately, Corriere della Sera urges:

“The wound has been treated as well as possible, nevertheless it threatens to be torn open once more just a month after Britain left the EU. And so the threat of political violence has reappeared in a country rocked by decades of civil war and thousands of deaths. The problem is as simple as it is unsolvable: with Britain's departure tariffs are back; however, peace in Northern Ireland is guaranteed precisely by the elimination of a physical border with the Republic of Ireland in the south. ... It would be good if a solution could be found as soon as possible. Because history warns us not to take Northern Irish traumas lightly.”