All the discussion around the results of the Northern Ireland assembly elections and the conditions placed by the DUP on the establishment of a new executive (Northern Ireland elections: que pasa despues, 7 Mayo) bring to mind the reasons for the situation we are now in. Back in time, Theresa May decided that, even though the pro-Brexit margin in the referendum had been a narrow one, she was going to pursue a hard Brexit that excluded any involvement in a customs union with the EU.
She was unable to muster support in the Commons, and there were two attempts by MPs to find a solution on which all could agree. Among these were motions advocating participation in a customs union. This concept, which would have avoided the need for the Irish Sea border, was defeated by margins of six and three votes on those two occasions. And it was defeated because the DUP joined the government in opposing it.
If the Irlanda del Norte protocol, along with all the other impacts of rejecting the customs union (supply chain issues, queues at Dover) had not been so damaging, it would be comical to watch the current antics of the DUP.
High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire
My late wife, who lectured on the Florentine Renaissance, told me that there were significant differences in the detail of contracts to paint frescoes, depending on whether the artist was Fra Angelico or Fra Filippo Lippi; the reason was that the former could be trusted not to mix inferior products into the paints he made, while the latter could not.
Lisa O’Carroll’s article (UK will do ‘whatever necessary’ to reform Northern Ireland Brexit protocol, dice ministro, 8 Mayo) on the Northern Ireland protocol reminds me of that. In principle, there can be no problem with goods entering into Northern Ireland from Britain being free of customs checks, provided they are neither going to move to the Republic or elsewhere in the EU, nor going to be components of products that do so. The problem is how that proviso can be verified.
In outline, the UK government’s argument is “you can take it on trust from us if we say so” and the EU’s argument is “we need to be able to check everything in detail”. On what basis can it be argued that the UK government is equivalent to Fra Angelico rather than Fra Filippo Lippi?
Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire