Irish border: 'Margaret Thatcher would have sorted the EU out long ago'

The border issue has proved hugely divisive in Ireland, as demonstrated by this Sinn Fein protest

The border issue has proved hugely divisive in Ireland, as demonstrated by this Sinn Fein protest

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The EU is playing off Ireland against Britain and Margaret Thatcher would have "told them to get stuffed" a long time ago, according to Irish journalist Ruth Dudley Edwards.

In a draft of Britain's 'divorce treaty' set for release today, the EU says Northern Ireland would have to stay in what one diplomat described as a "de-facto customs union" and follow single market rules, to avoid a hard border if the UK cannot reach an alternative deal with Brussels. 

The draft treaty appears to have exposed further splits in the British government, with Theresa May insisting that Britain will not be broken up while Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has played down the significance of a hard border, writing that the vast majority of goods would pass without checks. The EU's document has also provoked fury among Northern Ireland's DUP party, Theresa May's coalition partners, which has described the prospect of staying in the customs union as "unacceptable."

Some observers have suggested the EU's document is simply an attempt to hold Britain hostage, using Ireland as a pawn in the Brexit trade negotiations. Edwards concurred with this view, telling Julia Hartley-Brewer that Ireland was once "proud of having fought for its independence, and now it's prepared to lie down and accept bullying from Brussels" - a particularly galling fact, she added, given the Irish Republic is about to become a net donor to the EU.

She also described the EU as "terrible leakers" and they're "playing games all the time" in a bid to punish Britain for the Brexit vote.

However, Edwards added, the issue of the Irish border should not affect the Good Friday Agreement, and the whole impasse can be resolved with "people being clever."

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