Posted by Jim on December 9, 2017
By Sinn Fein MP Elisha McCallion
The people in the north of Ireland voted to remain in the EU. Yet on 29
March Theresa May signalled to the European Council the British
Government’s intention to leave the EU and drag us out.
The first phase of a two-year negotiation on Brexit started in June and
prioritised the British Government’s “divorce bill”, the rights of EU
citizens and how Brexit will impact Ireland.
The EU made clear this Brexit process must safeguard the Good Friday
Agreement in all its parts, the rights of citizens and north-south
cooperation – including no hardening of the border.
When finally the British and the EU appeared to agree on a solution on
Monday, the DUP vetoed it in their own narrow sectorial interest. The
putative agreement between Theresa May and the President of the European
Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, appears to have been derailed by them.
In effect, when attempts were made to cater for the unique position of
the north of Ireland and to protect citizens’ rights, our economy, and
the Good Friday Agreement, the DUP went out of their way to block this.
Last week the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, visited
Dublin. He said if the British Government’s offer on the border is
unacceptable for Ireland, then it will also be unacceptable for the EU.
This is a welcome approach which needs to be maintained.
The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, should continue to stand up for the Irish
people – north and south – against the British Government, DUP and the
The DUP are Theresa May’s partners in this sorry mess. But the DUP do
not speak for the cross-community majority here who voted Remain.
They, like their Tory partners, represent only a tiny section of the
Brexit-at-any-cost British establishment.
No one, least of all the DUP, has made a credible case that the north of
Ireland will be better off outside the EU. They cannot tell us how we
will maintain essential cross-border services such as the all-Ireland
cancer centre in Derry or the freedom to travel and trade across the EU.
In Ireland, Brexit would mean economic damage on an unquantifiable scale
due to trade tariffs and regulatory divergence.
All of this is occurring against a backdrop of relentless, DUP-driven
Tory austerity, severe cuts to public services and investment.
The solution to Britain’s Brexit crisis in Ireland is clear. The north
of Ireland should have Designated Special Status within the EU, ensuring
that we remain within the customs union and the single market. That is
the only guarantee of stability and certainty which will deliver the
full protection of the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts; including
Irish citizenship and the benefits of EU citizenship.
This is a common sense, practical, and achievable proposal and does not
change the constitutional position of the north. We are told Brexit is
happening and we must accept it. Sinn Fein and citizens across the
island of Ireland reject this as an abdication of political leadership.
We are at a crucial juncture in the process. The Irish Government have
the responsibility and the leverage to ensure clarity and certainty from
the British Government.
The DUP’s determination to deliver Brexit regardless of the cost to the
people of Ireland, north and south, including large swathes of their own
electorate, is clear. But they represent a minority of people in the
north, a minority in Ireland, a tiny minority on these islands and a
minuscule minority in Europe.
The relationship between the people of Britain and the European Union is
entirely a matter for the people of Britain. But the people of Ireland
cannot be collateral damage in process that is driven by Brextremists in
the DUP and the Tory Party.
Defending the economic security and future of Ireland must be the
priority for the Taoiseach in the immediate time ahead.