from Neil Cosgrove, National P.E.C. Chairman …
Brothers; the election of Boris Johnson as Prime Minister signals that we are nearing the climax of the Brexit saga. Mr. Johnson has made clear that he intends to take the United Kingdom out of the E.U. by October 31st even if it means a hard Brexit of leaving the E.U. without a deal. The key issue is the “Irish Backstop” which would mean that the U.K. would maintain regulatory alignment with the E.U. until another means was found to maintain the currently notional border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. Mr. Johnson and fellow Brexiters want the “Backstop” provision removed, for despite expending a lot of breath speaking on ‘technological” and other pixie dust solutions to the border they know that such solutions do not exist and they risk being stuck in the Backstop interminably. Their end goal is to put a time limit on the backstop and then simply run the clock.
From an Irish perspective, this raises two key issues:
- 1. First “a border in Ireland is a border in Ireland” irrespective if it comes from a hard Brexit or as a result of appeasers willingly sacrificing Ireland for their own national interests. The open border that resulted from the U.S. brokered Good Friday Agreement has been fundamental to two decades of peace in Ireland after thirty years of violent conflict; facilitating the building of trust and sharing of prosperity between the communities of Ireland. A British border in Ireland will disrupt everything from businesses whose product lifecycles cross a now invisible border multiple times to basic everyday activities such as students attending schools and people seeking medical treatment. It should also be remembered that the community of Northern Ireland, Catholic and Protestant, Republican and Unionist, rejected Brexit by 56%.
- 2. It is unrealistic to think that the United Kingdom would pursue a drastic change with a collapsed devolved government in Northern Ireland. There is a very real possibility that Northern Ireland may return to direct rule under the pretext of “in light of the current (self-made) crisis and the good of the nation”. Direct rule would effectively freeze the now glacially slow progress on fulfilling the Good Friday Agreement
Taken together it is clear that the Good Friday Agreement and a proud U.S. legacy in the cause of peace are under serious threat.
It is for this reason that the Hibernians are very concerned by a recent letter by Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas and signed by 44 other Senators that pledged “unwavering support” to the United Kingdom “irrespective of how Brexit occurs”. We have responded to Senator Cotton and his co-signatories stating that “unwavering support” at the cost of the peace and prosperity of Ireland and the U.S. legacy of the Good Friday Agreement is too high a price.
In fairness, we believe that many of the Senators who signed the letter, and many others, still do not appreciate the collateral damage that Brexit will inflict in Ireland. It is here Brothers we ask your support. At this time of year Senators and Congressional Representatives are in their home offices; it is imperative that we take this opportunity as constituents to educate our elected representatives. We will be sending out a template for discussion with your representatives in the next few days.
As Hibernians we have nothing against trade deals, and if the British people wish to leave the E.U. that is their right; however, we oppose seeing the Irish people and a seminal U.S. diplomatic achievement being sacrificed on the altar of Brexit expediency. We cannot support the blank check that Senator Cotton proposes giving Britain in supporting Brexit “however it occurs”.