February 05, 2019
Pressure on Varadkar rises - the EP turns up the heat
Let's consider the worst-case scenario for a moment: without a backstop Ireland would be legally bound to start moving towards a hard border on the day of Brexit: reinventing the impossibly intricate, 500km-long, now invisible border as one with more than just a few police and customs checks. Since this would clearly destroy key benefits of the Good Friday agreement, Dublin is reluctant even to contemplate such a scenario, let alone debate it openly. The Brexit steering group in the European parliament did exactly that, much to the irritation of the Irish government. Dublin's position is that, according to the 1998 peace agreement, it is up to the British to ensure that the border can remain open and it is therefore up to Brexiting London and not Remaining Dublin to come up with a solution.
For the European parliament and its Brexit steering group there is a further consideration, namely that the integrity of the single market must be assured no matter what happens to the Good Friday agreement. Spiegel Online quotes veteran MEP Elmar Brok with a stark warning that an open border plus Brexit could mean that cheap chlorinated chicken à l'américaine would infest the shelves of EU supermarkets, a scary image not just for German voters. Philippe Lamberts, another prominent member of the committee, warned that if the Irish were to refuse to patrol and control the 500km-long border the EU might have to consider installing the border checks on the continent. This would de facto exclude Ireland from the customs union, so it is up to the Irish to chose between an open un-patrolled border and the single market, so Lamberts.
With such tough love, if love it is, the pressure on Ireland to open itself up to an alternative to the current backstop formula is rising. Expect more heat between now and and March. But, after all, spring is coming.