Brexit, Ireland and warning voices

Congressman Richie Neal


Some mornings you don’t know quite where to begin. Events are moving at such a pace, every day brings fresh  statements or events.

This morning, for example, the Irish Times has a major piece headed “ ‘This is not about a return to empire’ Congressman warns Johnson on Belfast Agreement’”.  The congressman in question is Richard Neal (one of the interviewees for my forthcoming book on the border and Brexit), the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, which decides on US trade deals.

“He (Boris Johnson) needs to be reminded that  this is not about a return to empire. There should be no compromise. The Good Friday has worked as well as anybody could have imagined. It brought to rest the longest- standing political conflict in the history of the western world, and I don’t think there’s any reason for the Irish government to back away. The UK should take some satisfaction from the success of the Good Friday Agreement – not try to undo it.”

Last night the man intent on doing just that wined and dined in Belfast with Arlene Foster, whose MPs are currently propping up the Tory government.  Is there a politician, a journalist even who has the guts to call out Johnson and the British government when they attempt to present themselves as even-handed referees, intent on getting both sides here to agree? The charade would be laughable if it weren’t so blatantly hypocritical.

Finally, Mary Lou McDonald was interviewed at 8.10 this morning on BBC Radio 4’s flagship programme, Today.  In it she made clear that Brexit had changed everything, including the attitude of a considerable number of unionists to the border. Of course Brexit and the border are not the same issue, she explained. But Brexit, particularly a hard Brexit, is set to unleash such economic chaos on the north of Ireland, the escape route marked ‘Brexit’, into the relative stability of the EU, is becoming more and more attractive to more and more people, including unionists.

To say otherwise is to accuse unionists of stupidity. Mary Lou didn’t say that, I did.

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