A thought occurs to me reading a Comment by a reader under the discussion on Leo Varadkar’s suggestion that a super-majority threshold would be necessary for any referendum on reunification held in the British-administered Six Counties. Is this idea a bit of kite-flying by An Taoiseach to see what response he receives from the leaders of political unionism in the north-east? It’s been reported that the Fine Gael-led government – with a nod-and wink from Fianna Fáil – is working to have the north designated as a Special Region of the European Union and the United Kingdom. In effect, a shared economic zone of both, while leaving overall sovereignty with the UK. This would give the contested territory access to the EU single market, under the umbrella regulations of the European Economic Area (EEA), with some bespoke version of the Customs Union ensuring a continued “soft border” on the island (or arguably, a form of “soft reunification”). This might, or might not, require greater customs’ and immigration checks between Ireland and Britain. In practical terms, the technical difficulties for such a solution are not insurmountable. Though it would be politically difficult for the minority Tory administration in London and its parliamentary allies in the Democratic Unionist Party.
Which is where the 70%+ plebiscite rule may come into play. Are the political cliques in Dublin hoping to buy off unionist opposition to a half-way house for the Six Counties between the EU and the UK, including a potential “Irish Sea customs border” of some sort, with the promise of a super-majority clause to protect the future of Britain’s historical colony in Ireland? One which would copper-fasten partition on a permanent basis? Rendering the votes of a future northern nationalist majority invalid in the face of opposition from a significant pro-union minority?