‘The Irish should know their place’

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Some British politicians have grown resentful of Ireland’s influence throughout Brexit talks, says the BBC, as fears mount that a deal that will prevent a remilitarisation of the border will not be agreed in time.

Nicholas Watt, a political editor for the BBC, reported on a recent encounter he had with a conservative British politician.

“A Tory grandee recently sidled up to me to express grave reservations about the Brexit process,” he wrote. The British politician told him: “We simply cannot allow the Irish to treat us like this.”

“This simply cannot stand,” the politician continued. “The Irish really should know their place.”

Watt did not name the politician, but did say it was an MP from the Conservative party.

It comes after top Tory Priti Patel said Ireland should be threatened with food shortages in order to accept the Brexit deal favoured by hardline unionists, which would likely see border customs posts return.

On Monday, British Prime Minister Theresa May postponed a vote in the British parliament on her proposed Brexit deal. The postponement was due to unionist and right-wing opposition to the backstop, intended to maintain an invisible border. The deal calls for Britain to remain largely within the European Union’s customs and trade system for the next two years while a long-term pact is negotiated. For Brexit supporters, this is too vague.

Watt writes: “And that is what alarms so many Tories: after centuries of troubled Anglo-Irish relations it is the smaller of the two islands which appears to be exercising greater power for the first time.”

On Wednesday, May won the support of her parliamentary party after a vote of no-confidence took place on her leadership, by 200 votes to 117. But tension between the hard-right element of her party and the rest remains sky high.

With May’s efforts to win ‘legal assurances’ from EU leaders that the backstop is temporary not working, doubts remain that she can secure a parliamentary majority for a Brexit deal ahead of the deadline of March 29, when Britain is otherwise set to crash out of the EU.

Former Tory leader John Major is the latest senior British political figure to warn that a reinforced border risks a return of violence. He addressed the issue when he was speaking in County Longford at the first Albert Reynolds Memorial Lecture.

“Those who mock and disparage the backstop should reflect on the risks of destroying it and stop relying on uninvented fanciful alternatives that for now exist absolutely nowhere,” he said.

“At stake is not only community relations but security and with it lives as well. We should never forget that the Troubles began in the 1960s with the murder of customs officials at the north-south border.”

UNITY ‘DISRUPTIVE’

Sinn Fein’s Mary Lou McDonald told the Dublin parliament that in the event of a crash Brexit, “there is only one way to protect Irish interests, and that is to remove the border. We cannot have a hard border or hardening of the border.”

There have been concerns over Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s level of preparedness for a crash Brexit. He has said only that recruitment of staff and infrastructure at ports and airports will be made public, as will any legislation that is needed.

McDonald asked him, “I want to know what is the state of preparedness of the Irish state to provide for a process of constitutional transition and a unity referendum which I believe will happen in any event. I believe that is the course we are on.”

Responding, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said his government’s focus at the moment is the ratifying a deal, and claimed that raising the issue of a united Ireland now is “disruptive”.

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