The Irish Problem

How do you solve a problem like the Irish Border after Brexit?

It would appear that Theresa May and possibly Enda Kenny have some idea because, according to the Taoiseach, May has assured the Irish PM there will be no hard border with Northern Ireland.

An interesting claim at the beginning of the Brexit negotiation process and one I find hard to take too seriously. Today sees the first all-island conference on how Ireland will tackle such thorny issues during the negotiations and after Brexit. A laudable effort from Irish politicians but really what will it accomplish at this stage? Perhaps a wish list, but as the role and influence of the devolved administrations in the nitty gritty of the Brexit negotiations is likely to be minimal, that is all it might be.

Additionally, without representation from Unionist parties, the extent of co-operation is limited. The fractious nature of Northern Irish politics deems that any progress will be slow and steady to accommodate the polarised political views in the province. Beginning such discussions with empty places at the table is surely counter-intuitive, even a waste of time. How can Kenny state with any degree of confidence that his government would continue to be the “guarantor” of the Good Friday agreement and freedom of movement across the border?

The Prime Minister’s claim at PMQs today that there will no change to movement of people within the British Isles is unfounded – her wish to get the best deal for the UK is unsurprising and at the same time unrevealing. What is clear is that statements about freedom of movement are no more than pipe dreams until we are considerably further down the road and could falsely raise expectations.

Far better will be once Article 50 is triggered so that we can actually get on with things rather than the political posturing we have at the moment.