Time for a so­lu­tion that works for all

Belfast Telegraph - Business Telegraph - - News -

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

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