Brexit isn’t just causing problems with Northern Ireland

One of the most astonishing things about the last few days is how willing Brexiteers have been to jeopardise decades of peace in Northern Ireland.

Most of them are old enough to go better. I grew up in the 70s and 80s and remember the turmoil. I had relatives who missed being blown up by a matter of minutes. The loss of life and violence and uncertainty was horrendous and that time should not be easily or lightly forgotten.

But it’s not just that part of the UK that’s heading for constitutional issues because of Brexit. The failure of the Scottish and UK Governments to agree on the devolution of EU powers after Brexit threatens to create a bit of a crisis. The Scottish Government says it won’t ask the Scottish Parliament to give consent to the EU Withdrawal Bill in its current form. The UK Government originally wanted to take back sweeping powers for itself, but has since conceded  in principle that it won’t do that, but has given precious little detail as to what that actually means in practice.

So, the Scottish Government published its own “Continuity Bill” yesterday which deals with the powers that come back to Scotland. The Scottish Parliament’s Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh says its outwith the competence of the Holyrood Parliament to pass it.

That won’t stop it being discussed, though, but another piece of hastily drafted, insufficiently scrutinised legislation is the last thing we need at the moment.

Our reaction has been to push for an agreement between the Scottish and UK Governments. Tavish Scott said:

It’s extremely disappointing that the Scottish and UK governments have not come to an agreement. That is not good. This is a sensitive and delicate process that strikes at the heart of the government of not just Scotland but the UK.

Ministers must ensure that they are committed to good governance in the process that they’re asking Parliament to endorse. We are being asked to make a huge decision about devolution itself and it will be essential that we have the fullest parliamentary scrutiny.

The Scottish Government will need to explain the legal basis of their position, and ensure that there are further opportunities for MSPs to provide essential scrutiny.

Christine Jardine said on Politics Scotland this afternoon that it was the UK Government which was threatening the fabric of the UK with sheer incompetence.

Their cavalier and insensitive approach to Brexit puts so much that we take for granted at risk.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Peter Martin 28th Feb '18 - 10:04pm

    There’s a lot of issues starting to be discussed at length now which were barely mentioned during the referendum. The question of the Irish border being one of them.

    There was also hardly any discussion of the Customs Union or the Single Market. The terms ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ only started to be used after the result became known.

    Didn’t these issues occur to those who were in charge of the Remain campaign or was there a decision to play them down?

  • Lorenzo Cherin 28th Feb '18 - 11:20pm


    If you can , and have not, see on iplayer the channel four news today.

    An impressive and wise interview with Sir John Major.

    An extra special report most unusual in interviewing remarkably eloquent teenage school girls in Northern Ireland , giving their views , fears , re Brexit.

    More heartfelt and insightful than much seen thus far on this subject , it made me more convinced and more concerned.

    Northern Ireland is the worry, Scotland, the stakes are not as high as the tempers.

    Both have reason to be sensible and see on the peace union and the union…

  • If there is no hard border in Ireland’s and that shifts to the Irish sea then it will shift the hit to trade which is vitally important to areas like North Wales (the devolution controversy also exists here by the way). Brexit has always been a Tory/Ukip issue moreso than any other party but Tory/Ukip are generally the party of little England’s interests – taking back control for those who already dominated the UK.

  • John Probert 1st Mar '18 - 10:21am

    The border issue is only discussed in relation to Ireland and never with Gibraltar and Spain. Will whatever solution is applied in Northern Ireland equally apply to Gibraltar?

  • Andy,
    Your point is all over the shop. You’re frightened by people who didn’t vote , like the girl in costa, but you have to agree them? People need to be shown the facts and persuaded, but parliament should simply ignore them anyway.
    IMO, there is a pretence that remain arguments are not emotional. But they plainly are. Hence all the we must listen to the children stuff, the idea that we must be at the “heart” of the European project, the endless fretting about how things look and claims that leave voters are mean or irrational, erratic and driven by possibly “evil” hidden motives. And so on.
    The point of the “gut feeling” research is that it doesn’t really favour any particular point of view and virtually no one escapes it. Personally, my feeling is that a Norway style solution is an acceptable compromise because it offers a way of dealing with most of the complex legal issues, whilst reasserting a return to a more nation state based political model. I suspect the anger and wailing comes from the die-hard extremes of both camps. On a purely emotional level, I mistrust liberal or otherwise internationalism as a concept. To me it’s like other utopian ideas such as Marxism or Religion in that it relies on the creation of better people rather than suiting the imperfect existing ones, destroys the ability of voters to affect local change, puts too much power into technocratic elites, undermines existing nationally based democratic structures and is generally a bit up in the ether.

  • Denis Loretto 1st Mar '18 - 11:46am

    I wrote an article which was displayed on the European Movement website back in September 2015 warning that brexit would make a hard border in Ireland inevitable. My argument then was based on movement of people. Here is an extract –
    ” If the British electorate vote themselves out of the EU isn’t it likely that one of the main reasons will be their wish to limit immigration and avoid the “freedom of
    movement” which is intrinsic to membership? How can using the Republic of Ireland as a back door to access the UK be avoided? Some argue that the current opting out of the Schengen agreement by Ireland (as well as the UK) helps the situation. However this would only avoid Ireland being used as a free back door for non-EU citizens whom
    the Irish authorities wish to exclude. It would not stop EU citizens (including Poles, Romanians, Bulgarians etc.) who would presumably have passports and would be entitled to enter Ireland under the freedom of movement provisions. Therefore I think inevitably the British government would deem it necessary to fortify the Irish border”.

    In all the furore now about trade, no-one is mentioning movement of people. Has it really been accepted that there will be no passport checks or any restrictions whatsoever on people crossing the Irish border?

  • Peter Hirst 1st Mar '18 - 3:14pm

    It is becoming clear that we don’t need just one further referendum, more a series covering issues such as the Irish border, immigration, free trade deals, devolution, a customs union etc. Otherwise we depend on opinion polls if the cabinet take any notice of them. If it becomes obvious that we, the UK, cannot get what we want, the government should abandon Brexit, at least for the moment.

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