Persisting problems with Brexit and the Irish border

It is understandable that Fintan O’Toole (Britain has just discovered it’s now weaker than Ireland, 5 December) should make the most of his country’s 15 minutes of fame but he will soon find that, when push comes to shove, the EU will treat Ireland with the same contempt as they did Greece. It wasn’t that long ago that the people of Ireland had to endure severe austerity imposed upon them by the EU following the 2008 financial collapse. So far the Republic and its taoiseach have been allowed to wallow in self-importance because it suited Brussels, but should that become a real threat to moving to the next stage of negotiating trade, something that’s as important to the EU as it is to the UK, the taoiseach will soon be pushed aside and, like Alexis Tsipras, do as he is told in the traditional way that the EU treats its smaller member states.

The DUP stance that they want a hard Brexit with a soft border has always been contradictory and impossible to achieve. It has to be suspected that they will accept a hard border, despite the damage it will cause in many ways, because they see Brexit as an opportunity to lessen the influence of the Republic on the North. Rejecting special status for Northern Ireland ignores the fact that a special status already exists under the Good Friday agreement. Jacob Rees-Mogg remarks that “we are the Conservative and Unionist Party after all”, disregarding the supposed neutrality of the UK government on the long-term status of Northern Ireland, when this neutrality underpins the peace agreement. This is a very dangerous move by the extreme Brexit supporters. Meanwhile Sinn Féin have abdicated, keeping the Stormont assembly closed and continuing their refusal to take their seats in the UK parliament, despite the crying need for someone to speak up for their constituents at Westminster.

The people of Northern Ireland deserve better from the politicians.

The obvious answer is of course to cancel Brexit, but failing that the only way to solve this problem is for the whole of the UK to stay in the customs union.
Douglas Simpson
Todmorden, West Yorkshire

I live in Northern Ireland and I voted remain in the referendum. I have never voted for the DUP. But your editorial (The DUP must not have a veto on the future of these islands, 5 November) rather misses the point. Regulatory alignment might cause few issues at the moment of Brexit but if regulatory regimes are changed, perhaps to secure trade deals, then the alignment of Northern Ireland with Britain will be gradually stretched apart. Why would a unionist support such a process? The editorial, moreover, seems confused in its final statements. If the UK as a whole decided to stay in the customs union the unionists in Northern Ireland would have no objections.

What Dublin is seeking to achieve is an economic framework that traps NorthernIreland in a process drawing it away from London towards Dublin. There may be many in the Guardian readership who would support such a move. It is of course defying the consent principle of the Belfast agreement by stealth. That is why many unionists reject the honeyed words from Dublin.
Emeritus Professor Bob Osborne

The DUP’s predictable refusal to countenance a border settlement that could be interpreted as a significant step towards the reunification of Ireland has left the republic between an EU rock and a Brexit hard place. The value of trade between Ireland and the UK is in the region of €1bn a week, including the export of 250,000 tonnes of beef a year. This is threatened not just by Brexit but also by the huge pending free trade agreement between the EU and the South American common market (Mercosur), which Argentina would like to see signed off during its hosting of the WTO ministerial meeting in Buenos Aires next week. As usual, negotiations have been conducted in almost complete secrecy to the extent that media coverage of the deal and its implications for British and Irish farmers has been virtually non-existent.

The proposed volumes of exports from Mercosur could significantly undermine Irish beef prices, which will be of little comfort to British beef farmers either. What has been described as a “marginal economic activity” by the NFU is similarly threatened by South American imports and if Liam Fox’s trade bill becomes law, the intention is to “transition” EU free trade agreements into a UK jurisdiction, including Mercosur. So even if the Irish border impasse is resolved, there will remain a real threat to the rural economies of both the UK and the Republic, thanks to the neoliberal trade policies being pursued in London and Brussels.
Bert Schouwenburg
International Officer, GMB

The DUP leader, Arlene Foster, says: “We will not accept any form of regulatory divergence which separates Northern Ireland economically or politically from the rest of the United Kingdom.” Why then does she continue to insist on her province diverging diametrically from the Abortion Act which has regulated the provision of abortion in the rest of the UK for half a century?
Mary Pimm and Nik Wood

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