By Jude Collins (judecollins.com)
When I hear what the EU negotiators are telling the UK, I invariably feel a jolt of pleasure. It’s like the playground bully - he’s been condescending and brutal with you for so long, it’s a thrill to see the school principal give him a bone-crunching kick in the rear-end.
So whatever reservations I have about the EU, and I have quite a few, their stance on a post-Brexit border here invariably makes me want to punch the air. This firm attitude is displayed most recently in an internal EU paper which makes it clear yet again to the semi-deaf Brits that if they want to avoid a hard border in Ireland, then our North-East Nest will have to remain in the single market and customs union. The rules must be the same on both sides if our currently invisible border is to continue.
This internal paper is just a working document from the EU Brexit Task Force under Michel Barnier; it’s not a finalized EU position. But it makes clear the direction in which EU thinking is going. We’ve been fed a diet which caricatures countries like France, Germany and Italy, but it’s clear that in terms of the border in Ireland, the EU are the hard-headed, logical ones, not the Brits. If you’re going to have two totally separate economic systems north and south, you’re going to have to build a border to show the dividing line.
Best of all, of course, is the fact that the British can’t park this matter in a side road and move on to matters of future trade between the EU and the UK. The EU is insistent that the matter of a border in Ireland must be resolved before the talks between them and the UK move to a new phase.
It’s truly refreshing to see the EU take its commitment to the Good Friday Agreement seriously. The British and the southern Irish government could learn a lot from them. And they’d better learn fast.