When this series started in early March with Emma Stark’s prophecy about Dublin being key to the Backstop and Ireland issues I appended my personal trail on this matter and surmised that, in being an integral part of the whole British Isles, Ireland would be better being as separate from the EU as we are geographically from continental Europe. Later I mentioned an answer may lie in both nations eventually getting closer to the USA than EU, especially as such a politico-economic grouping would cover the Irish diaspora.
This afternoon’s news, however, reports our PM Boris Johnson as having ‘clashed with his Irish counterpart Leo Varadkar in their first phone call since he took office. Downing Street confirmed that during the phone call the Prime Minister “made clear that the UK will be leaving the EU on October 31, no matter what.”
‘Mr Johnson told the Taoiseach that, while he will approach Brexit negotiations in “a spirit of friendship,” any fresh deal must see the backstop abolished.
‘However, the Irish Government said Mr Varadkar told Mr Johnson that the emergency measure to prevent a hard border on the island was “necessary as a consequence” of UK decisions. “Alternative arrangements could replace the backstop in the future, as envisaged in the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration on the future relationship, but thus far satisfactory options have yet to be identified and demonstrated,” a Dublin spokesperson said.
‘During the call Mr Johnson reaffirmed his commitment to upholding the Good Friday Agreement and to “never put” physical checks or infrastructure on the border, a No 10 spokeswoman said. “The Prime Minister made clear that the Government will approach any negotiations which take place with determination and energy, and in a spirit of friendship, and that his clear preference is to leave the EU with a deal, but it must be one that abolishes the backstop,” she added.
‘The Taoiseach has since invited Mr Johnson to Dublin to “further their respective analyses on Brexit“. (Emphasis mine)
We pray that Boris will accept Leo’s invitation and spend time in Dublin to encourage radical, ‘subversively’ positive changes to this ‘backstop’ issue, as indicated in the prophecy.
For deeper background information I offer the following extracts from my weekend’s reading, especially as we’re now at the close of the prophesied 9 months of shaking and birthing from last October to this month. (Emphases mine. Read the full articles by clicking titles’ links; I understand there’s a facility to read free-of-charge.)
‘...I have known Boris for 25 years, and he is the cleverest man I have worked with. Sure, he is well-mannered enough to keep his sharpness under wraps, but don’t ever make the mistake of thinking that his Falstaffian persona implies intellectual levity.
‘He knows exactly what he is doing, especially when it comes to Brussels – the place he went to school, and to which he returned in 1989 as the Daily Telegraph’s correspondent. No British politician has a keener appreciation of how the EU works, how its policies are made, how its deals are brokered. Where Mrs May deferred instinctively to her civil servants, Boris understands this subject better than they do…
‘What happens next? There is a small possibility that the EU might compromise. Plenty of its leaders concede, in private, that there is a logical case for dropping the Irish backstop. The choice, after all, is between losing the backstop and keeping everything else (the money, citizens’ rights, etc) and losing the whole lot. But, as Boris is well aware, the EU’s attitude has as much to do with face as with logic. The backstop has taken on symbolic importance in Brussels. A scheme originally devised to keep the UK permanently subject to EU trade policy has been publicly presented as a guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement, and some Eurocrats have talked themselves into half-believing it.
‘In Dublin, where the issue is better understood, no one seriously thinks that there will be a physical border, deal or no deal. The trouble is that the backstop has now become a matter of national pride. Although every estimate suggests that a no-deal outcome would hit Ireland worse than the UK, Leo Varadkar’s interests do not overlap with those of his country. Leading a slightly poorer Ireland, but being hailed as a tough-minded patriot, must seem more appealing than leading a slightly richer Ireland (for which he would get no credit) while being howled down as a West Brit….’
‘…I say “no trade deal” rather than “no deal” because I have voted as an MEP on more than a dozen measures providing for continuity in aviation, road haulage and so on. Still, tariffs and other trade barriers are a challenge. Although, in theory, the EU and the UK could agree a simple “zero-for-zero” tariff deal pending talks on a more ambitious treaty, in practice we must be ready for a more vindictive attitude. At every stage so far, Brussels has put politics before economics, making it clear that it is prepared to see all sides suffer if necessary.
‘So how would Britain respond to an EU that, following no deal, made good on its threat to make commerce conditional on the backstop? In such a situation, we would have no choice. Rather than negotiate under duress, we would need to pivot to the Anglosphere, prioritising trade deals with the United States and the Commonwealth…’
‘…The key here is not so much persuading the EU to shift stance as Ireland. For the EU as a whole, the backstop holds little significance. It’s basically only there to satisfy the Irish, who in practical terms are now faced with a classic Hobson’s choice; either a softish border at some point in the future, or the certainty of a hard, economically destructive border with the UK in little more than three months’ time. In a rational world, Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s premier, would choose the former.
‘Donald Trump sees Brexit as an opportunity to bring Britain within the American orbit. But reconciling the Brits and the Irish? For an American president, there are few prospects more appetising, and for this consummate showman, it may be too much to resist. There may yet be a role for him to play as peacemaker. The UK trade deal can wait…’
Varadkar can blame Britain all he likes – but he is the real threat to peace (Nick Timothy – joint chief-of-staff to PM Mrs May, resigned after 2017 general election)
‘…When Varadkar became Taoiseach, back in 2017, the most pressing decision he faced was how to handle Brexit. Britain’s vote to leave the European Union was obviously unwelcome. It was a nasty reminder that British decisions can still impinge on Irish sovereignty and that, thanks to geography and history, Ireland’s interests remain closely aligned with those of the UK….
‘With Varadkar’s connivance, Brussels weaponised the Northern Irish border – and with it the peace process – to lock the UK into a customs union and a colonial status in which we would have to follow EU laws. And so the “backstop”, the Withdrawal Agreement protocol that binds either Northern Ireland or the whole of the UK to the EU’s customs union and many of its laws, was invented.
‘It is easy to see why this approach tempted Varadkar and his allies in Brussels. It suits them very well to keep the UK tied to European laws. It must also have been hugely enjoyable for a young Taoiseach, and his deputy, Simon Coveney, to lord it over Ireland’s former imperial masters…
‘My judgment is that Theresa May liked and wanted the backstop. She believed she had succeeded in splitting the EU’s fabled “four freedoms” – of goods, services, capital and people – by remaining in a customs territory with the EU while allowing Britain to control immigration. But this misunderstood the meaning of Brexit.
‘Leaving the EU means leaving its laws and institutions in full. It means Britain being free to decide its destiny. The Withdrawal Agreement means the opposite. As Brendan Simms, the Irish historian, says, the backstop would give the Irish government more say over important parts of the UK economy than the UK government. Whether applied to Northern Ireland alone or the UK economy as a whole, this Irish or European suzerainty over British sovereign territory would be unacceptable purely on democratic terms…
‘These are not the only ways in which Varadkar has played fast and loose with peace in Northern Ireland. Lord Trimble, one of the architects of the peace process, explained in a Policy Exchange paper last week how the backstop has “driven [the Good Friday Agreement] into the ditch”. This is because – both in the way it was conceived and the way it would work – the backstop studiously ignores the consent principle that is vital to government in Northern Ireland. As Simon Coveney said about unionist opposition to the backstop: “We cannot allow one party in Northern Ireland to veto any proposals.”
Dublin’s policy was bold, audacious and very nearly successful. Varadkar has sought to impose humiliating terms on Ireland’s larger and more powerful neighbour. He has tried to turn a bilateral peace process between the UK and Ireland into a political standoff between the UK and the EU. And he has abused the Good Friday Agreement for his own ends, while shamelessly accusing Brexit supporters of endangering the peace process.
‘Under Theresa May, the UK almost succumbed. But now Boris Johnson is holding firm. When he visits Northern Ireland this week he should not be shy in pointing out who is risking a no-deal outcome and a hard border in Ireland. It is not the United Kingdom, but Leo Varadkar.
‘The backstop is supposed to stop a hard border, but by making the Withdrawal Agreement unratifiable, it is making no-deal and a hard border more likely. There can only be one solution: the backstop must go.’
[Image credit: photo of Boris Johnson and Donald Trump by Reportfocusnews]