Theresa May’s week of shuttle diplomacy produced only gloom in Dublin

At the end of a week the when Theresa May touched down in Dublin again, the Irish Times is deep gloom.

Noel Whelan’s pessimism is not placated by May including Dublin in a transcontinental shuttle that began in Washington, touched down in Ankara and Cardiff and ended up in Valetta. She can’t have meant business if she only had James Brokenshire with her, he snorted. It seems a bit ungracious  to dismiss her visit, the second,  in which she accorded Enda Kenny equal treatment with Donald Trump and EU leaders – and yes – the leaders of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland is the same swathe. But Noel has an answer even to that –   she was bound to be jetlagged.

So the week was a mixed bag for her. Although she seems a bit less personally isolated, the EU partners are behaving like hurt people wanting an amicable divorce but anxious above all to protect their own interests.

On this occasion Pat Leahy takes seriously the words that fell out of Enda Kenny’s mouth in questions about the Dublin meeting between the two premiers.

“Deputy Adams asked me about having a situation where there is no land border between the Republic and Northern Ireland. I am not sure that we are going to achieve that.” he nature of these difficulties also became clearer this week.

So  great are Enda’s anxieties that he even rammed the same message home in a further brief encounter with her in Valetta.

The Common Travel Area between Ireland and Britain and the Republic and Northern Ireland has been there since 1922. We do not see any change in that. It’s not just a travel arrangement, it’s also a residency and labour arrangement,” he said.

“And certainly we have committed to no return to a hard Border, and I really mean this. This is a really serious issue for us and for Britain. I did point out before that any semblance of a return to a hard Border would have very negative consequences and the British government fully understand that and the prime minister understands that. I made it crystal clear and plain that that’s a real issue.”


This can only mean that Enda believes that warm but vague assurances from Theresa are not enough – particularly in the light of evidence like this.

At Westminster on Wednesday the Northern Ireland committee heard from experts on customs and trade Michael Lux and Eric Picket.

Their view was there will have to be customs checks – proper, can you open the boot please, sir, customs checks – at least initially.

Lux, a retired lawyer who worked for the German ministry of finance, said Ireland would have no choice but to have customs checks on the Border.

The Guardian’s report of the proceedings noted that his evidence “drew audible gasps from MPs” as he told them that every vehicle carrying goods worth more than €300 crossing from the State into the North would have to be stopped and checked, even if only “for a few minutes.”


But that’s what you’d expect customs experts  to say. It doesn’t take account of British hopes for a ” bespoke deal” that so far are greeted with general scepticism outside ther ranks of a minority of Conservartives.   Little of substance has been added to the British position in the week  that Parliament  at last gave its consent to the triggering of Art 50 and a White Paper listing British aims. The authoritative Financial Times (£) passed on scathing verdicts from big business

But these are just snapshots of the moment before the negotiation starts. The weather will keep changing until we can finally call it the climate.  The British may  win freer trade from Europe than the pessimists expect.  There are many pressures on EU 26 too. Mrs Merkel says the EU should go for free trade if Trump’s America goes protectionist. And the border may yet be “frictionless” whatever that may mean.


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  • Fear Éireannach

    I think you mean that the people that proposed and support Brexit did not think through give a damn about the implications of their position.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Indeed and so starts a potentially controversial impasse between unionists who want the international border to work and nationalists who have more of a reason to want it removed.

    Fun times for nationalists and their unionist outreach, unionists and their nationalist outreach.

    It was Brexit which smashed the equilibrium and something has to change because the “borders of the present” cannot remain.

  • Kevin Breslin

    De Valera introduced the customs in the first place against the unionist government. So regardless of who makes the first move it will be picking the scabs of a healing wound to reintroduce them, though that compulsion may not be able to be stopped under any circumstances.

  • Kevin Breslin

    The EU will consolidate, keep its external tariffs for third nations and reciprocate any migration constraints upon UK citizens at the Schengen level.
    These decisions will cost the UK more than than their net contribution in terms of red tape, trade barriers, lost trade and supply and cuts to income from barriers to the export of services.

    There is no extra money, no extra power, no extra influence … The Brits are going to have to do things the hard way and roll up their sleeves.

    Dee Stitt economics only works with those trying to buy their votes … The away side here (EU27) doesn’t need British votes of it leaves, it needs the votes of the internal EU citizens who’ve been ridiculed and villianized by the loudest sections of the Leave movement.

    If Merkel can’t get the EU on one page on how to approach the UK with pragmatism, Farage and Johnson are sure to get the EU to unite against the UK.

  • lizmcneill

    England deserved to pay reparations to Ireland for the centuries of colonial damage they did to it.

    How can you see your nationalism as benign when it’s doing this to Northern Ireland? If it was genuine, why did it not ask for English devolution instead? Why does it need to bring down the rest of the UK along with it?

  • Raddiy


  • Raddiy

    Cheaper EU goods, are you having a laugh, you obviously don’t remember the cheap food we were forced to give up from New Zealand and Australia in 1973 to buy overpriced food from subsidised EU farmers.

  • Fear Éireannach

    Surely Fine Gael introduced the customs? Old habits die hard.

  • Conchúr Ó Conghaile

    .Brexit is going to be really bad for Northern Ireland.

    Economically it’s going to be a disaster, Northern Ireland is a net beneficiary of European funding. There’s not a town in the six counties that hasn’t had an important piece of infrastructure funded by European money. EU money is the only thing that keeps most farmers in NI solvent.

    That’s before we consider the impact of the border. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Any change to the status of the border is likely to kickstart dissident republican violence. I’m not worried about the borders of the past. I’m worried about the borders of the future.

    If they put up any sort of border between Belcoo and Blacklion there’ll be hell to pay A policeman was almost killed in Belfast last week. Theresa May is genuinely putting lives at risk here.

  • Tarlas

    Please follow link to terms of so called soft loan.

    I consider it to be just a standard financial product , Ireland
    has bought money from a country that beats its chest to the world about it’s financial service sector.

    I have also included a link to current UK debt. I suggest that you should check out the terms , just in case it’s a run away train.

  • Fear Éireannach

    Build a wall from Larne to the M2 and let them stay in Britain if the British will have them.

  • Trasna

    You”re forgetting the Ireland has a veto and can supper any deal, something the EU and May are acutely aware of.

  • Trasna

    Clout. How about a veto on any agreement. There’s no panic in Dublin, just raising legitimate concerns. When push comes to shove, Ireland will look after itself and if that hurts NI, so be it.

  • Trasna

    I think the answer to that is no. FG/SF are up to something. After NI’s elections, SF’s demands on the DUP will be too great for the DUP to agree to and Stormont will fall.

    That renders the DUP impotent. ST will then focus on a unity referendum but one led by FG.

  • notimetoshine

    Oh I have no doubt that Ireland will look after itself. Problem is, if the North is hurting, the South is likely to feel it too. If there is significant economic dislocation and or civil unrest as a result of an unfavourable deal for the North, the South will feel some impact. Whether that is cross border trade and investment, or internal political problems (hard border would be a gift to SF) hurting NI will likely hurt the South.

    Yes the Irish have the veto, but do they have the political clout, the political captial if you will to exercise that veto? Going up against the big beasts of the EU, especially considering the quick and clean deal the French and Germans will inevitably want, could be hard.

  • Ciarán Doherty

    If I was Enda I would just get real, the Brits had no plan for Brexit and there is no reason to expect a positive result for them from this process or anyone else reliant upon concessions made towards them.

    Genuinely putting all history and emotion aside, this is the time for Ireland to move as far as possible away from reliance upon the British economy. The Eurozone is facing a deep, deep crisis and the EU may not survive but despite all it’s many flaws it is project for integration and co-existence on a large scale, whereas Britain is joining the ethno-nationalist race toward isolation.

    When Britain looks unlikely to sustain even it’s own living conditions, Ireland can’t expect to rely in any way upon demand from British consumers even if there is no border restrictions and no trade restrictions of any kind between the two countries. Other EU nations can and must replace Irish reliance on the British economy and Enda should be lobbying Brussels as hard as humanly possible to ensure this through policy.

    Even in the worst case scenario where there is a massive Eurozone crisis and EU breakup, which is not at all unlikely, being an outward looking member of this internationalist project would provide Ireland a chance at being a part of a partial union with those countries that do not slide into ethno-natioanlist oblivion a chance at cooperation and mutual preservation – Dublin needs to plan for this eventuality and ensure that it has multiple economic plan Bs and is close to the centre of Europe.

  • billodrees

    La la land.
    Europe will decide on the border controls and protocols for the RoI side and London will decide on what is on the Northern side.
    I don’t understand what tactic Kenny is playing: I hope he does.
    A non-existent border can only come about if
    RoI implements English border controls in Irish points of entry
    London moves border control between NI and England/Scotland.
    That would mean border control in Stranraer and Heathrow for NI travellers and goods!!!

  • hgreen

    You seem to be one of the old straight banana folk completely out of touch with what happens in the real world.

  • murdockp

    a hard border won’t be a gift to SF. they have thier supporters and that’s it.

    Ireland is a nation of entrepreneurs. yes there is a self serving unionised elite, but in the main Irish people in ROI will vote for parties who support business SF is not this.

  • Fear Éireannach

    Border control at Stranraer is exactly what is needed. It is a simple matter to implement compared to the alternative, which will surely restart the troubles.

  • Gopher

    So because your in a traffic Jam or not as the case may be at the Border people are going to start murdering. Who exactly is going to be doing the murdering?

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    But Stranraer will be in the EU after Scotland votes to leave the UK

  • Gopher

    Now that Brexit is certain, Im not really sure it is sensible to swim against the tide but embrace it and start to define opportunities. I’m not sure protesting will get any better border controls, or create any jobs. Since its looking like direct rule for years I think it is up to the buisness community to start to produce realistic ideas. but I admit it is difficult when you dont know the nature of the border but multiple scenarios need to be thought through

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    Argentina, Australia and New Zealand have moved on since 1950. They have other markets much more important to them than the UK. They will also be wary of the probability of England re-joining the EU in 10 years or so, when it has sunk to the economic level of North Korea.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    Exactly right – and that is why Scotland will inevitably leave the UK.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    The English do not need their own parliament – the one in Westminster does all they need. It is overwhelmingly dominated in numbers by English MP’s – why would it not without exception act in the interests of England first, last and always. You only have to examine parliamentary history for the past 50 years or so to see that clearly.

  • Granni Trixie

    If it were we could sue the British government:
    Pre troubles 69 Westminster cOnventions were to ignore NI and so did not intervene to address discrimination grievances being denied by unionists in power in NI.

  • lizmcneill

    The guys that attempted to kill that policeman last week?

  • lizmcneill

    And here we see the reaction of English nationalism to the prospect of Northern Irish suffering.

  • lizmcneill

    I don’t know, a few of Trump’s policies etc have been hampered by protests or people phoning their representatives.

    Time for those with a Unionist MP to put the fear in them. Phone them up and tell them you’ll vote SF if a hard border is introduced!

  • Fear Éireannach

    The problem with the veto is that they can only veto the deal, not prevent the British from leaving without a deal, in which case you’d end up with the greatest chaos. It is a very challenging political calculation.

  • notimetoshine

    I have absolutely no idea what a ‘self serving unionised elite’ is or what it is in reference too.

    Also forgive me for not being too quick to trust that ‘nation of entrepreneurs’, a group of people who felt that leveraging to the hilt and betting on an infinite rise in property prices was a sound investment strategy.

    With reference to SF, it could energise their base, you know the crap they can come out with ‘800 years fighting the Brits and now this’, that kind of thing. Not particularly helpful granted but enough to rabble rouser.

  • eireanne3

    the talk of “punishment” comes from the UK, not the EU. In response to the England and Wales’ unilateral decision to leave the EU (i.e.punish the EU), the group of 27 countries quite rightly stands up for its interests and founding principles.
    According to the UK this means “punishing” the UK.
    Who seems to have a “punishment” complex?

  • eireanne3

    there are a lot of big differences between 1) deciding to join a large group of European nations as an equal partner, which one can leave when one wishes (see the UK) and 2) being forced to submit to the rule of one other country for centuries which used force and guile, cruelty and exploitation to hold Ireland in its grasp

  • mac tire

    Britain wants to leave the club but wants all the benefits of membership.

    The ‘punishment’ talk is merely the UK preparing its citizens in case Brexit doesn’t work out as planned. They can then still blame the EU, despite not being part of it, for their predicament. After all, they have spent the last 40 odd years blaming Europe for their own problems, what’s another 40 more.

  • hgreen

    Simple maths seems to be a problem with brexiters. Divide that deficit by 27 and let us know how you get on.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I was over the water in 84, Roger, exchanging nods with a then cabinet minister living in the next street to me some mornings. My Conservative Party member cousins had some interesting gossip about “that woman.”

    Maggie almost wanted as “shot of this place” as she did of the unions, Brighton or not! You are perhaps forgetting the fracas teh following year when she set the tone for the future by bringing the Irish Government directly into NI with the Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Conference, a shift which led Dr Bobby Dickinson, to claim the agreement was “the beginning of the process of edging Northern Ireland out of the United Kingdom – sovereignty has been impinged”. And brought teh futiure Lord Bannside out howling “Jezebel!!!”

    I will leave you to the solice of an empty rhetoric, and continue to watch with some ammusement as the reclaimed “sovereignty” buzz leads to the inevitable break up of an inflexible UK and forces an embaressed RoI to throw us all in the north an historically long overdue lifebelt…………..

  • eireanne3

    Unionists might, just might, have somewhat more success with their nationalist outreach were they to dump Lyal Arders as their Significant Other

  • Gopher

    They tried to kill him even without the traffic jams.

  • Gopher

    Trump is different. This is going to effect peoples jobs. Brexit is now something we have to get on with and make work especially in Ireland. . Time for grown up politics instead of continual infantile protests. 300 seat majorities means phoning anyone except to say how can I help is a waste of time.

  • lizmcneill

    How can we make it work when the Tories aren’t interested in making it work for NI? Why do they refuse to allow us to have a special status, or put the border checks at the Irish Sea, or anything we try to come up with to make it less damaging?

  • lizmcneill

    And you think a hard border won’t make them more murderous, or convince a few more eejits to join them?

  • aperfectstorm1

    It is going to be very interesting to discover if the UK will try to use Ireland as a hostage in the negotiations. They have hinted as much recently in suggesting the importance of the CTA. Ultimatey it will be Europe who decides how open that border can remain. A special side deal could be frustrated by London anxious to win further concessions from the mainland. Fine Gael do not have the strength or the bottle to edge play and May will be well aware of it. The Irish have no person of impact on the EU negotiating team and Enda Kenny has no intention of forcing a green squaddie into the battle field. The Dublin gov is EU subserviant, they will get minced in the foray.

  • Gopher

    We have not tried anything, all the political parties have been doing there 1…2…3 scatter in different policy directions. England by and large have accepted the decision and know they have to get on with it, we need to do that also, we also need to accept that 1.85 million souls is not going to drive the process. Its not the tories that wont give us special status, Spain and Germany with their Catalan and Barvarian independence movement wont give us defacto special status. Our special status will have to be more creative but to do that we need to pull together and make the inevitable work.

    If I was Dublin and London I would be shifting through old treaties to see if there is any legal loopholes in any of those that can circumvent EU law and if there is not I would forge some. That would be my first step exploring all the legal stuff with regards Britain and the Republic or even the Free State. That would be my first recourse check all the treaties.

  • lizmcneill

    The 1,2,3 is why I was saying the unionist parties need a good frightener put on them to encourage them to do something useful instead of lie down for Theresa to walk all over.

  • Gopher

    May has a 300 seat majority on this unionists can do nothing. Its here we need to make it work and fighting May will solve nothing, it might sound good but it will have a catastrophic effect on jobs and the deal we can hope to get.

  • Fear Éireannach

    Why should we accept it? It has been accepted since the Anglo-Irish agreement in Thatcher’s day that NI is different and has an Irish dimension. Nobody is asking for anything different other than what has long been agreed and thought necessary.

  • hotdogx

    We will remember to yawn also when you cry to Britain about the border being placed at the Irish Sea where it should be!

  • Fear Éireannach

    The point is, as you well know, is that the dissidents have made no progress because information on their activities was reaching the PSNI. If the British government renege on the peace settlement then of course most people will not take up arms, but they certainly won’t be helping the British either. So no information will reach the PSNI, who will have to retreat to their fortified bases and give up all the progress made.

  • lizmcneill

    What deal? May’s plans to leave the single market will have a disastrous effect on jobs. Bye bye agrifood, bye bye FDI, probably bye bye tourism as no one can get into the place.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Fairly sure it was Fianna Fáil, but I’ll double check.

  • Kevin Breslin

    The U.K. is bound by WTO rules even if it does leave the EU. Without a deal with the EU, and without a completely free trade internal arrangement with the EU, it has to introduce a tariffs border, but short of not leaving the customs union it needs a customs border as well.

  • Reader

    eireanne3: In response to the England and Wales’ unilateral decision to leave the EU (i.e.punish the EU), the group of 27 countries quite rightly stands up for its interests and founding principles.
    1) I expect you’re just as judgemental about divorcees. Look, it’s over. Of course we can talk, but you can’t have the key to my new flat.
    2) Freedom of movement as currently implemented wasn’t actually one of the “founding principles”.
    3) The EU governments will have noticed, as you have not, that the “interests” of EU citizens (the vast majority of them need trade more than the right to live in the UK) are at odds with the corporate interests of the EU (which needs to administer a beating to keep everyone else in line).