A positive outcome

Posted By: December 09, 2017

Distributed by Irish National Caucus

Irish News Editorial. Belfast. Saturday, December 9, 2017
Yesterday’s deal on the future arrangements for the Irish border marks a significant stage in the Brexit process which now looks considerably softer than was initially envisaged by the British government.

The joint report agreed between the UK and the EU in Brussels not only guarantees there will be no hard Border and protects the Good Friday Agreement, but also confirms that if there is no trade deal the UK will maintain ‘full alignment’ with single market and customs union rules that support north-south cooperation and the all-island economy, which many will regard as being close to special status.

And if there is no deal, Northern Ireland will continue to have ‘unfettered access’ to the UK internal market, an issue of primary concern to the DUP.

Overall, the Irish government is entitled to feel satisfaction at what has been achieved in the face of immense pressure from hard-line Brexiteers and the main Unionist party.

Despite the histrionics from last Monday onwards and the unedifying insults directed at them from the DUP, the Taoiseach and Tánaiste have held firm and, in the circumstances, have emerged with a positive outcome for all of the people on this island.

Theresa May will also be relieved that this point has been reached and the focus can now switch to trade which is where her main interest lies.

Had she not been able to move forward it is difficult to see how she could have remained in office for much longer.

Having wobbled in the face of DUP opposition on Monday, she was clearly determined to drive this deal over the line, making a range of concessions with or without the support of the DUP.

Arlene Foster admitted as much when she said she had shared her concerns over the agreement but “ultimately it was a matter for the prime minister to decide how she chose to proceed”.

In truth, and despite the positive spin it is putting on matters, the DUP has little to show for its grandstanding earlier this week while its attitude towards the Irish government will have further alienated northern Nationalists and damaged the prospects of restoring the Stormont executive.

Leo Varadkar pointed out that this deal is just the end of the beginning – in other words, we still have a long way to go before we reach the conclusion of the Brexit negotiations.

Given the huge importance of the issues that remain to be resolved and the serious implications for both sides of the border, it is frustrating that we do not have a devolved administration actively engaged in this crucial process.

The UK’s withdrawal from the EU will have far-reaching implications for every citizen on this island.

We need an Assembly and Executive in place to represent the interests of all the people in Northern Ireland, not just supporters of the DUP.