Growing unease as Brexit negotiations offer little clarity
Recent developments with regard to Brexit will add to the mounting sense of unease among those worried about the future arrangements that will affect every citizen on this island.
In terms of the ongoing negotiations in Brussels, the EU yesterday issued a number of position papers, one of which related to Northern Ireland.
Michel Barnier's team has essentially said it is the responsibility of the UK to come up with ideas to avoid a hard border, adding that the British side must protect the interwoven `political, economic, security, societal and agricultural context and frameworks on the island of Ireland.'
The EU said dealing with these challenges will require a `unique solution', and called for a political commitment to protect the Good Friday Agreement and the gains of the peace process.
Reports suggest the Irish government had some influence in the drawing up of this document and there will be little surprise in that.
The Republic is the only EU country which shares a land border with the UK and there is absolutely no doubt that Brexit will have enormous ramifications for the south.
Dublin is entirely right to protect its interests and those of Northern Ireland which are closely intertwined, as the EU has specifically referenced in its latest position paper.
All sides agree that we must avoid a hard border and the Common Travel Area must be maintained but so far there is no agreement on how that will be achieved in practical terms.
Mr Barnier said he was worried about the positions set out by the British government in its paper on the border, accusing the UK of using the issue as a `test case' which he added would not be fair to the EU or the Republic.
And we have yet to get into the meat of the negotiations in terms of trade while the clock is ticking on the deadline for Britain to exit Europe in March 2019.
Meanwhile, a leaked draft British government memo on migration plans post-Brexit has caused widespread dismay in the business community.
The Home Office memo contains a raft of radical policy proposals, including a residency limit of two years for low skilled workers and three to five years for the highly skilled.
Other ideas on restricting extended family members joining EU workers in the UK and requiring employers to recruit locally first, are being viewed with alarm.
Sectors such as the hospitality industry in Britain, which relies heavily on migrant workers, said the measures, if implemented, could prove catastrophic.
There are also suggestions that some senior ministers are refusing to back the plans, indicating unresolved and deepening divisions in the Conservative Party.
Unfortunately, despite all the evidence, the most ardent Brexiteers are still refusing to acknowledge the enormous damage that will be caused by the misguided decision to leave the EU.