It seems that the patience of the European Union with the prevarications of the United Kingdom over the post-Brexit future of the latter’s colonial outpost in the north-east of Ireland is coming to an end. According to The Guardian, EU officials have warned their UK counterparts that any withdrawal deal from the bloc must include specific legal guarantees ensuring the contested region’s regulatory alignment with the rest of the island. The newspaper claims that the start of detailed talks between the two sides followed,
….a warning from Brussels that keeping the region under EU laws was currently the only viable option for inclusion in its draft withdrawal agreement.
British officials negotiating in Brussels had been told by their counterparts on Tuesday that while full alignment would be the only option included in the withdrawal treaty, there could be a “sunset clause” included in the legally binding text, which is expected to be published in about two weeks.
Such a legal device would make the text on Northern Ireland null and void at a future date should an unexpectedly generous free trade deal or a hitherto unimagined technological solution emerge that could be as effective as the status quo in avoiding the need for border infrastructure.
As it stands, however, the UK is expected by Brussels to sign off on the text, which will see Northern Ireland remain at the end of the 21-month transition period under a large expanse of customs union and single market legislation relevant to the north-south economy and the requirements of the Good Friday agreement.
It is evident that Brussels sees the issue of continued peace, stability and prosperity in Ireland as a totemic symbol of pan-European cooperation and solidarity. To protect the future integrity of the international bloc, to prove its political and diplomatic strength, and to dissuade further secession by member states, the EU is drawing a line in the sand with London. And that line runs around the Six Counties. Unfortunately, Britain has rendered itself blind to the motivations of the representatives of Europe during the current negotiations and can only recognise and give countenance to its own inchoate needs.
This makes any hope of a near-future compromise by the faction-ridden Conservative Party government in the United Kingdom unlikely. Especially with prime minister Theresa May’s inept administration looking to the parliamentary votes of the hard-right, europhobic Democratic Unionist Party to stay in power. Meanwhile, the latter grouping is pursuing its own ethno-sectarian objectives far removed from the concerns of London or Brussels, intent on securing another century of embattled half-life for the would-be UK territory on the wrong side of the Irish Sea.