London must say no to Dublin, even if brings disorderly Brexit closer

Dublin's co-ordinated hardline stance on the Irish border has caused much anger in London and anxiety among unionists.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 1st December 2017, 12:39 am
Updated Wednesday, 6th December 2017, 12:49 pm
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Morning View

There is, at present, much for the latter to be optimistic about.

In the first instance, the DUP holds the balance of power, so even if London was tempted to agree something that impacted on the constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom, it would be deeply reluctant to enrage the very unionists who keep the government in office.

But even more significant than that, a number of well informed commentators who write about Conservative politics insist that there is genuine and widespread Tory reluctance to contemplate Northern Ireland staying in both the single market and the customs union, which would mean a border in the Irish Sea.

In other words, ministers across this administration are sufficiently unionist in instinct that they would not be inclined to buckle to Dublin’s demands, even if there were pragmatic reasons to do so.

There was a report in The Times yesterday that the government was prepared to consider some regulatory convergence in specific spheres, such as agriculture and electricity. Any such proposals would need to be carefully scrutinised for their constitutional implications.

Dublin has, as Ian Paisley Junior said, behaved disgracefully. Some veterans of the Irish political world think that Leo Varadkar is showing his inexperience by adopting such a tough stance.

Mr Varadkar, and his recently promoted deputy, Simon Coveney have been insistent that they will not allow Brexit negotiations to move to the next stage if the British do not give sufficient details on the Irish border at this stage.

The highly respected economist Graham Gudgin, writing for the News Letter today (‘Nationalist Ireland is using Brexit to further its Irish unity aim and is pushing London furthern than it can go at this stage’), outlines how unreasonable it is for Dublin to be making such a demand at this stage.

They must be rejected, even if that brings closer a disorderly Brexit.