Time for a solution that works for all
The almost 600 pages of the Withdrawal Agreement has caused millions of words to be written and spoken over the last few weeks. Here in Northern Ireland, it has caused major division between business groups and some of the political parties.
Almost everyone, on all sides, agree that it is a poor agreement, with some being more strident than others, some looking at it from a political point of view, and others from a business point of view, and then arriving at very different conclusions.
The views on both sides are understandable and both deserve to be heard.
Whatever their views, it seems to be clear that at the moment about 100 MPS from the Conservatives and DUP will not vote for the agreement, although that could reduce as pressure is brought to bear by the Conservative Party whips over the next few weeks.
This means in all probability that the agreement will not be supported by the House of Commons in its current form.
Everyone therefore needs to look to the next stage and find out what would allow it to pass through the House of Commons.
It would appear for many of the MPS that the backstop is the major hurdle that has to be overcome and needs a better solution, especially in light of Macron’s unfortunate intervention over fishing.
The Prime Minister and EU leaders have said this is the final deal and cannot be changed.
It would be ironic if intransigence over the backstop, which was designed to protect the two parts of Ireland, was the issue that created a no-deal situation that did the exact opposite of their stated intent.
So, it is difficult to believe that the EU would allow that to happen and cause damage to one of their members, in particular their agriculture and food industries.
They now need to accept that the agreement, as constituted, will not move forward and find a solution that will work for all.
For example, the EU could allow Ireland, a country that is about 1% of its population and has no land border with the 26, a special dispensation to trade with the UK in line with the Common Travel Area.
All checking of goods moving to the 26, to ensure they were properly certified for sale in the EU, would then only be at factories or ferry ports.
Will pragmatism prevail, or will political dogma be allowed to determine the future in both parts of Ireland?
Byirwinarmstrong, Executivechairman, Cigahealthcare