Simon Coveney, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, has warned his counterparts in the United Kingdom that they must abide by the “backstop” agreement reached with the European Union last December and March over the post-Brexit status of the UK legacy colony on the island of Ireland. Speaking at a meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council in Luxembourg the Tánaiste told RTÉ that:
“Those commitments have been made in writing by the British government, and what we’re saying is we want no more and no less than the follow through of those commitments. That’s what needs to happen.
We’re not looking for anything new here…
Last December it was agreed that in the absence of agreeing something better there would be a backstop in place, which essentially means that the UK would maintain full alignment with the rules of Customs Union and Single Market in areas necessary to protect North South cooperation, an all-island economy and the peace process.
Then in March, the commitment was very clear that that backstop would be legally operable in terms of text in the Withdrawal Agreement. And it would be there unless and until something better was agreed.”
The words of the deputy Fine Gael leader came after intense talks over the weekend between EU and UK officials, with the latter repeatedly stonewalling or rebuffing attempts to find a workable compromise between the two parties on the issue of the border around the British-controlled Six Counties. Britain’s Prime Minister, Theresa May, is under immense political pressure from members of her own Conservative Party, including senior government ministers, and from her parliamentary allies, the hard-right Democratic Unionist Party, to push the negotiations between London and Brussels to the point of collapse and beyond.
In the House of Commons, feverish speculation is coalescing around the figure of David Davis, the former eurosceptic Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, and the suggestion that he might become a “caretaker” premier in the event of May being forced out of office by her anti-European colleagues and backbenchers. Certainly that would please the DUP, which has become increasingly strident following the laying down of its “blood red” lines in opposition to any special status for the north-east of Ireland; the “backstop” deal that would keep the Six Counties in regulatory alignment with the EU while also respecting UK authority over the region. Despite this uniquely generous offer by the EU27, with the objective of maintaining peace in a territory formerly blighted by decades of war, the proposal is anathema to many Tories; albeit due to domestic power struggles between different factions of the party.
As long as peace and stability on this island is subject to the whims and fancies of our neighbours to the east we will never be truly free. We’ve tried a hard border. We’ve tried a soft border. Now lets try no border.