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The GFA consists of two agreements, an inter-governmental Treaty and an inter-party agreement. It is the former which lays down the holding of a referendum if Irish Unity is contemplated.

Technically, and given the fondness of the UK for unwritten Constitutions, no amendment to the GFA is required. The UK government could simply agree a new Treaty stipulating that it will hold a referendum on N. Ireland remaining in, or re-joining the EU, should a majority there wish it and if no other way is found to avoid a hard customs border within Ireland.

That would solve the Irish border issue. Varadker could say it is up to the people of N. Ireland to decide whether they want a customs border with the south, and it is up to the UK to decide whether one is required down the Irish Sea - by deciding that Great Britain is leaving the CUSM. The Irish government will have had no hand, act, or part of deciding whether a customs border is required, and where it should be located - something it is politically impossible for it to do.

In the event of one being required down the Irish sea, the EU would require extra territorial control or supervision of that border as it would be within the UK, but also the EU's new external frontier. So a new three party UK/IE/EU agreement would be required.

The EU has already agreed N. Ireland can join the EU automatically in the event of Irish re-unification - a la East Germany. That agreement, too, would have to be extended to include a circumstance where N. Ireland remains within the UK, but also has democratically expressed its wish to remain within the EU (or rejoin it if after Brexit day).

Not being a sovereign territory, N. Ireland would have its own MEPs (as currently) but not its own Commissioner or representation on the EU Council etc. That part of its external affairs would effectively be handled by Dublin rather than London.

In my view an elegant solution to the GFA's requirement to guarantee parity of esteem for both traditions in N. Ireland. It would remain in both the EU and UK, and it's citizens could continue to opt for British or Irish (and EU) citizenship, as at present.

Of course the DUP would oppose it as a step towards a United Ireland. Hence it is something the UK government could only agree after the Withdrawal Agreement and other essential amending legislation to enable Brexit is passed by the House of Commons.

That is why I am suggesting May's deal should voted on by the house of Commons NOW with an amending clause limiting the backstop to two years after the transition period is concluded - i.e. Dec. 31st. 2022. That is beyond the life of this Parliament (and the DUP's likely control of the balance of power) similar to the amendment proposed by Andrew Murrison MP (Cons).

Of course the EU and IE will continue to insist on the Backstop until such time as the new tri-partite EU/IE/UK agreement is in place. That will be the EU/IE's price for ratifying the Withdrawal Agreement with the Backstop sunset clause and can only become public once all related legislation has been passed by Westminster and everyone is shit scared of an imminent no-deal Brexit.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Jan 27th, 2019 at 08:33:10 PM EST
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