Letters to the Editor

Room for UK-wide unionist party which espouses devolution/federalism

There are now several realistic alternatives to the backstop which do not threaten the constitutional integrity of the UK and ensure the whole UK leaves the EU and retains full democratic control and sovereignty.

Customs expert Dr Lars Karlsson (former Director in both the World Customs Organisation and Swedish Customs) has released his Smart Borders 2.1 report.

Dutch customs expert Hans Maessen along with others including the DUP and  Conservatives have released ‘A Better Deal’ alternative withdrawal agreement which could work in conjunction with the previously released ‘Plan A Plus’ Super
Canada deal.

Switzerland has a Max Fac border in development called DazIT.

The Federation of Small Businesses has proposed that Northern Ireland becomes a ‘free port’ or a special economic zone and Fianna Fáil has also proposed a similar special economic zone to include the border counties of the Republic.  The FSB proposal sees Northern Ireland outside the EU customs union and single market along with the rest of the UK (not to be confused with EU Special Status or the backstop).

All of the above would unlock the current process while keeping an open border with the Republic.

But even under a so-called ‘no deal’  we are rapidly seeing the various scare stories evaporate. We are seeing a raft of mini deals emerge that would prevent any kind of ‘cliff edge.’

Irish Agriculture Minister Michael Creed TD stated that there would be no border checks on agricultural or farm produce between the Republic and NI  – something echoed by the UK government recently in evidence given to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee.

Irish Revenue and the EU have already admitted most checks occur away from the border at warehouses and premises and previous evidence by Revenue Commissioner Niall Cody has said he would envisage far less than 2 per cent of freight (less than 200 vehicles per day) being checked and these checks would effectively be ‘in the market’ not at the border.

Ryan Air and others now have both UK & EU licences which will allow flights to continue as normal. 
Once we leave we will see huge swathes of power return to the UK. Current proposals would see the vast majority of the 158 areas where policy in devolved regions is currently decided in Brussels go directly to the devolved institutions in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales after Brexit with 24 areas temporarily retained by Westminster.

Note that Sinn Féin’s 2014 European Manifesto called for the repatriation of powers from Brussels and for the European Commission to be stripped of the ability to initiate European legislation.

If the prime minister continues with her dreadful deal we may see splits in both the Conservative and Labour party with the possible extension of Article 50, which if not extremely short, would see EU elections taking place in the UK this year. Might we then see a new Brexit party – indeed could we finally see the DUP/Farage linkup? There is certainly room for a UK wide unionist party which espouses devolution/federalism. 

Coagh, Co Tyrone


Andrew Shaw is holding on tightly to his blinkers

Andrew J Shaw (January 2) advocates the cutting off of aid to the unfortunate prisoners in Gaza and the completely unprotected residents of the West Bank, who are daily subjected to brutal abuse and destruction of their trees and homes by the illegal settlers occupying Palestinian lands. The Palestinians are subject to military law whilst the settlers have civil law. The Israeli Defence Force is largely composed of settlers in uniform whose purpose in life is to encourage the rightful inhabitants to leave.

In 2018 hundreds of Palestinian homes were demolished casting 472 victims onto the streets including 216 children and 127 women. These homes lacked building permits which are almost impossible to obtain from Israeli authorities. At present there are 11,000 outstanding demolition orders. Where are these unfortunates supposed to go? Does anyone care?

Mr Shaw mentions the advocacy, on the foreign aid issue, of the British international investment secretary, Ms Priti Patel, whose secret visit to Israeli PM Netanyahu and other government ministers cost her her job.

No mention by Mr Shaw of the 295 dead and 29,000 injured, unarmed protesters shot down by Israel snipers for approaching the prison fence between Gaza and Israel since March 2018.
Of these victims, 25 per cent were under 18. How would the world react if President Macron of France called up the French army and positioned 100 snipers with orders to shoot down the Yellow Vest protesters if they crossed police lines? Mr Shaw is holding on tightly to his blinkers.

Belfast BT9


England’s Brexit bluster

Harry Stephenson’s letter  – ‘Britain not a second-rate nation’ (December 21) – is misleading the reader with his casual use of the word appeasement. This is not a Neville Chamberlain, pro Second World War military situation. Instead it exposes the lack of skill, education, commercial sense at the heart of Westminster. That is the kernel of England’s problem. The best high flying graduates from 28 countries are attracted to Brussels.  Brexit cabinet ministers displayed lamentable and illiterate leadership.

From next month the EU will have a free trade agreement with Japan for services and goods covering 650 million people and a third of the world’s GDP. India has trade deals with only nine countries. None are with western developed economies. China has enough tariff problems with the colossus that is America. It is also the biggest foreign investor in the continent of Africa. Thus the EU is expanding into Asia and the other big players are already committed. Wherefore little England?

A welch on the £39bn divorce settlement will in time cause extreme difficulty when negotiating potential trade deals. Brexit bluster will rapidly be exposed as whimsical in complex and robust negotiations.
A cup of Yorkshire tea, chocolate biscuits and false pretence words will not suffice if Britain hopes to maintain its status in the top 10 economic league.  

Craigavon, Co Armagh


Contempt for the environment

The decision by the Japanese to resume commercial whaling is disgraceful. Some countries will not be satisfied until species are hunted to the brink of extinction or extinction. The business of pulling out of international agreements when it suits a country is another problem. There should be massive fines for those who want to pull out of international accords when it is convenient. It should not be just confined to whaling but a range of other agreements between international organisations. Money should be lodged by countries in escrow before they sign any agreement and garnished if they decide to renege on their commitments.
This is the 21st century and we still seem to have all the old problems of the last 100 years with barbaric practices.
Japan, with all its so-called nobility and code of honour, seems to have none when it comes to whales which are noble mammals which grace the vast oceans. 

Way in the future there will be a time when all fishing and mammal hunting will end – because there our oceans and seas will be emptied in man’s pursuit of profit. The pursuit of which taken to an extreme on a range of species and general contempt for the environment, will eventually bring man’s existence to a deserved end for his wages of sin.          

Shanbally, Co Cork

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