IRISH CONGRESSIONAL BRIEFING
Distributed to Congress by Irish National Caucus
“ God bless the French.”—Fr. Sean McManus
Boris Johnson gets lecture from Macron on The Troubles
Colin Gleeson. Irish Times. Dublin. Saturday, August 24, 2019
French president Emmanuel Macron has told British PM Boris Johnson that two core objectives must be upheld in any further Brexit negotiations:stability in Ireland and the integrity of the single market.
You can always trust the French not to mince their words, and Emmanuel Macron – the young, dynamic president of the republic and one of Europe’s most progressive leaders – is no exception.
Receiving UK prime minister Boris Johnson in the courtyard of the Élysée Palace this week, Macron set the tone by hoisting French and EU flags – but no British ones. While remaining courteous and respectful, he seemed in no mood to mollycoddle his guest.
Johnson, with his abhorrence for the backstop, did not take seriously enough the risk of reigniting the conflict in Northern Ireland, Macron implied. “There are still families whose children, brothers and sisters died in this conflict,” he said.
“To think of reviving that, because it suits us, would be irresponsible. I consider that Irish peace is European peace. We must not allow it to be threatened by a political and institutional crisis in Britain.”
The remarks could almost have been scripted in Dublin, and Macron went even further with the suggestion that Irish reunification and integration of the entire island in the EU “would solve all the problems”. To be a fly on the shoulder of Arlene Foster.
Days earlier, Johnson was greeted in Berlin to shouts of “No Brexit” from a hostile crowd camped outside the Berlin chancellery. Angela Merkel – hosting her fifth British prime minister – told Johnson the onus to find an alternative to the backstop was on him.
If he could do so within a short timeframe, Merkel said she would listen to proposals to change the withdrawal agreement, although there is no expectation in Berlin, Paris or Dublin that it can be done.
Nonetheless, the usual suspects in the British media celebrated the “concession” won by Johnson. “We can Merk is out,” cried the Sun on its front page.
All the while, UK government borrowing surged in the first four months of the fiscal year. The budget deficit between April and July stood at £16 billion, 60 per cent more than the same period last year.
Meanwhile, fears of a no-deal Brexit are growing by the day. Ireland’s European Commissioner Phil Hogan said such an outcome would create a “foul atmosphere” between the parties and would have “serious consequences” for any future trade deal.
The implications for the Border were laid bare by a report from the Food Research Collaboration, which pointed out that we will be legally obliged to apply controls to food entering the country from the UK in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
It would be “hard to exaggerate the disruption” this scenario would cause, it said, with some food businesses in Northern Ireland suggesting they could go out of business within three days.
Separately, a secret UK planning dossier called Operation Yellowhammer warned of “meltdown” at English Channel ports, with delays of two days and a severe bottleneck for Irish hauliers bound for Europe.
On the bright side, Irish motorists will no longer need “green cards” to cross the Border in the event of a no-deal Brexit thanks to an agreement between transport authorities in the UK and the Republic. …