Simon Coveney’s proposal for reduced chckes in the Irish Sea is misleading

News Letter editorial of Friday May 21 2021:

Friday, 21st May 2021, 8:04 am
News Letter editorial

Simon Coveney said that the checks on goods from Northern Ireland to Great Britain could be reduced by 80% if the UK adopted common veterinary and food standards with the EU.

The Irish foreign minister’s comments are misleading because it is asking of the UK something that it has already said it will not do.

When this is pointed out, Mr Coveney and others then say that there are consequences that flow from a complete Brexit, above all divergence, thus checks and consequently an Irish Sea border because there can’t be one at the land border.

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Latterly Mr Coveney has said that a resolution to many of the difficulties with the protocol needs to be achieved before the marching season. While it is welcome that he is now calling on Brussels to compromise, having previously, like Leo Varadkar, talked as if Ireland is the EU’s most rigorous enforcer of the single market, this new flexibility is also misleading.

It means modifications to the protocol or extensions of grace periods or easing of checks. Prominent unionist critics of the Irish Sea border are often seeming to accept that such modifications are acceptable. But it would mean, in essence, that the UK’s repeal of Article 6 of the Act of Union, which relates to unfettered internal trade within the Union, will continue. But that repeal just won’t be so visible or obvious.

That is unacceptable because it will still mean major constitutional change. It is an outcome with which Irish republicans will be delighted: Article 6 will have been repealed, but the fundamental nature of the change will not be so apparent.

Nationalist Ireland fiercely rejected the reverse. Even if the new trade divergence began at the existing land frontier between the two jurisdictions, as it should, and even if the UK vowed to have no checks, Dublin simply would not accept it.

Why? Because nationalism rejected the premise.Checks were not the issue. Modifications or grace periods would have been insufficient to placate Ireland in such circumstances.

As you would expect them to be to unionists now such a scenario is panning out in the Irish Sea.

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Alistair Bushe