The United Kingdom has published its position paper on post-Brexit relations between Ireland and the UK-administered Six Counties and on the face of it the proposals seem to be something of a climb-down by the minority government in Britain. Gone is all talk of borders around the north-east of the country, electronic or otherwise, and instead London is placing the emphasis on political and socio-economic continuity, favouring a special customs deal with Dublin and Brussels for the contested region. While this part of the thirty-page document has been welcomed, the lack of detailed proposals has been seen by many as further evidence of the chaos and confusion gripping the British authorities, not to mention some strategic game-playing. The northern Sinn Féin leader, Michelle O’Neill, has dismissed the main thrust of the publication as “delusional”, while the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Simon Coveney, has warned the UK that it cannot use Irish interests, and the peace process in particular, as a bargaining chip in its exit negotiations with the European Union.
The full document, “Position Paper by the United Kingdom: Northern Ireland and Ireland“, can be read in PDF form. As others have observed on this complex matter, it’s very difficult to work out how this square peg is going to be hammered into a round hole without some major damage along the way.