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Why I fear we face a car-crash Brexit

03 August, 2018

• IVOR Kenna, of the Celtic League, raises the question of what Labour proposes on Brexit and in particular “what effect it would have on Ireland’s internal border” (Letters, July 20). Mr Kenna’s question has gone to the heart of the current conundrum of exactly what Brexit means in practice.

While we might think of the Good Friday Agreement as being a purely Irish affair that brought “the troubles” to an end it is, in effect, a new and significant part of the UK constitution and an international treaty. The UK is obliged by law to maintain the terms of the agreement and the EU also has responsibilities as a guarantor of the treaty.

Freedom of movement and trade between the Republic and Northern Ireland is a key part of the agreement. However, these freedoms are explicitly curtailed by a hard Brexit. How to square the circle?

Mr Kenna mistakenly suggested that the White Paper “appears to have establishment approval in England and in the EU”. The White Paper had no chance of being acceptable to the EU and has swiftly been debunked by Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator.

Last month, I jokingly suggested that Downing Street would be renamed Delusion Alley. Behind the banter lay the point that the Chequers White Paper was making proposals that the government must have known could not possibly be accepted by the EU. It is precisely this kind of absurd proposal that leads me to fear a car-crash Brexit.

A car crash isn’t inevitable, but with the Tories at sixes and sevens the stakes are simply too high for Westminster to keep on playing fast and loose with Ireland’s internal border. No agreement on the border, no withdrawal agreement. No withdrawal agreement, no transition. Car crash.

Richmond Grove, N1


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