David Trimble

Crossing the line

The Taoiseach should stop trying to out-Sinn-Fein Sinn Fein

When I negotiated the Good Friday Agreement nearly 20 years ago, no one foresaw a day when the -United Kingdom would be leaving the European Union. It was impossible to imagine how the issue of the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, from which the barriers were removed as part of the agreement, would again become an issue of such political importance.

We have the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, threatening to veto the Brexit negotiations unless Theresa May gives a formal written guarantee that there will be no hard -border, and we keep hearing the argument that a departure of the UK from the single market and the customs union would put at risk the peace process and Good Friday Agreement. In other words, if the -border gates go back up again we will be back into the Troubles.

This cannot go unchallenged. The reason the issue of the border has been brought up in the way it has is not because of any practical reasons but because of the internal -politics of the Irish Republic. The Taoiseach has been in desperate negotiations with other party leaders in order to prevent a general -election being triggered. He is -snarling at London, trying to make a big issue about the border, because he is worried Sinn Fein might benefit if he does not.

It is not true that Brexit in any way threatens the peace process. There is -nothing in the Good Friday Agreement which even touches on the normal conduct of business between Northern Ireland and the Republic. Leaving the EU does not affect the agreement because the EU had nothing to do with it — except that Michel Barnier turned up at the last moment for a photo opportunity. The EU does have a peace and reconciliation programme for Northern Ireland but there is no provision for it in the EU budget.

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