The chronic weaknesses of both governments hardly assists clear thinking over Brexit. On the other hand there seems to be a general willingness to minimise the damage e.g. over a hard border and trade.
Whoever is the new British PM we cannot expect much departure from Theresa Villiers’s minimalist approach to coordination with the Republic. On the other hand the British-Irish relationship and the North-South bodies are adequate in themselves without the minor splash of an all-Ireland forum at this stage.
Even though the fragile Irish government may be approaching a new crisis over the position of the Taoiseach, Irish planning for Brexit seems ahead of the British.
The Irish Times reports that Irish Brexit plans will “ move up a gear” in the coming weeks, “outlining the need to protect Northern Ireland peace process through recognising the special status of the North- South relationship in all of these talks. This may be the precursor to a bid for special arrangements in any future UK- EU treaty”
There are economic factors too; a likely increase in competition for FDI between London and Dublin, lower corporation tax in GB, a lower level of sterling which hits Irish competitiveness, and the impact of potential British recession on trade with Ireland and therefore Irish prosperity.
If it’s about more than rhetoric, while there may be some diplomatic hesitation in Dublin over spelling out what these special arrangements might be, they can hardly wait until a new British government is formed and settled after 5 September.
It is surely time now to start laying ideas out on the table in a forum which all parties including the DUP will respect. Another reason to avoid undue delay is to minimise the trend to split within the NI Executive when Sinn Fein ministers talk to southern counterparts and DUP ministers insist on following a purely British route which has not emerged and will not, for at least a couple of months.
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London