‘BREXIT’ AND THE BORDER PROMISES MAY CANNOT KEEP
It’s been many years since a speech by a sitting British Prime Minister held such significance for Dundalk and the entire border area.
When Theresa May took to the podium at an ironically named ‘Global Britain’ event in London last week, to make what was dubbed her keynote speech on ‘Brexit’ there was a collective intake of breath across Ireland, and nowhere more so than in this area.
The open border, which in this area links Dundalk and Newry, has been a central part of the peace process, leading to the free movement of people, goods and services across the island of Ireland.
A highly valued freedom which is a living reality for the younger generation who remember no other existence, it was thrown into jeopardy by the votes cast in Britain last June.
Since the shock vote by Britain to leave the UK, there has been incessant speculation as to what this will mean for Ireland’s border with the north of Ireland, and constant conjecture about threats to the current free flowing customs arrangements.
Theresa May’s speech was meant to - finally - put us all out of our misery and lay out the plan for Britain’s exit, including what is likely to happen to the only part of the UK (political posturing aside) which shares a land border with Europe.
But what followed were more of the promises we have heard time and again over the last seven months, promises which Mrs. May simply cannot keep.
She restated a commitment to avoiding the ‘ borders of the past’ in Ireland, and said that she intends to make maintaining the Common Travel Area between Britain and Ireland a key objective in the negotiations with the EU.
Speaking about the Irish border, she said: ‘ The family ties and bonds of affection that unite our two countries mean that there will always be a special relationship between us.’
‘So we will work to deliver a practical solution that allows the maintenance of the Common Travel Area with the Republic, while protecting the integrity of the UK’s immigration system.’
But as she spelt her desire to take Britain out of the single market and the customs union, it became clear that a border in some form is inevitable.
Her poetic words about the historic links between Ireland and Britain meant little when she conceded that a ‘ hard Brexit’ was on the cards.
It was not only realistic, but within hours it was dubbed ‘an illusion’ to suggest that Ireland will have anything less than a manned border.