RACHEL JOHNSON: If Brexiteers really want Brexit, why not leave Northern Ireland in the EU?

PUBLISHED: 11:00 09 February 2019

A mock checkpoint manned by actors dressed as customs officers constructed during an anti-Brexit rally at the Irish border near Carrickcarnan, Co Louth. Picture: PA/Brian Lawless

A mock checkpoint manned by actors dressed as customs officers constructed during an anti-Brexit rally at the Irish border near Carrickcarnan, Co Louth. Picture: PA/Brian Lawless

PA Wire/PA Images

Taking Scotland and Northern Ireland out of the EU against their wishes is political vandalism, writes RACHEL JOHNSON.

Here’s my question. If Nigel Farage can say that the solution to the Irish backstop is that “Ireland leaves the EU” why are not more people turning around and saying, actually, Nige old cock, a far more sensible option is for Northern Ireland to leave the UK (and stay in the EU)?

I am aware that this is in the pantheon of politically unfeasible propositions and I am the last person to dissect this issue forensically (paging Fintan O Toole!).

I am also aware that the last Northern Ireland border poll was way back in 1973, and resulted in a thumping majority for remaining in the UK (having been boycotted by nationalists). But that was then.

The problem with the sainted Theresa’s blessed deal is that it founders on the intractable and unique situation across the Irish Sea. This is why the Withdrawal Agreement has the backstop baked in. This is why the EU27 leaders will not throw Ireland under the bus.

This backstop is the roadblock to getting a deal through. Ergo, one way to solve the deadlock is to remove the need for the backstop, and throw Northern Ireland under the bus instead. It could be boiled down to: not leaving the EU at all, or cutting Northern Ireland loose, like that climber they made a film about, who had a broken leg and cut the rope in order to save his own life when his friend plunged into a crevasse.

The UK tumbling out, and taking Scotland and Northern Ireland out of the EU against their stated desires, is throwing two innocent babies out with our dirty bathwater. An act of political violence and vandalism that the UK (now rebranded as a “independent coastal state” by the PM) will never be forgiven for, especially if it reawakens the Troubles.

If the wingnuts want Brexit that bad, maybe it’s time for the Tories to say the unsayable, and break up their own ‘Conservative and Unionist’ party – along with the country, manufacturing, the car industry, farming, catering, social care etc – in pursuit of their desired goal.

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I’ve been away – all year so far – and have brought a lovely souvenir home with me: a terrible bacterial chest infection. In India and Sri Lanka you can score most prescription-only meds over the counter (one famous author told me in Galle he had amassed 200 sleeping pills on his trips to lit fests on the Subcontinent, to which I replied cheerily: “Easily enough to kill yourself then Anthony!”).

In Jaipur, the weather app said the air quality was ‘unhealthy’ (I think that is a gentle way of warning that every breath you take you are sucking in a toxic smog of dust, faeces, and fumes). I am usually a stout party, eat anything, etc etc, but even I felt ‘poorly’ after 48 hours and developed a hacking cough and chills, and began feeling sorry for myself.

Normally I would tough it out but my mother always warned me I have a ‘weak chest’ after bouts of childhood pneumonia so I couldn’t risk it. Our faithful tuk tuk driver, Abdul, shovelled me in the back of his motorised rickshaw and wound through the Pink City and sputtered to a halt at a roadside shop – more of a shack, really.

It was Sunday but doing a roaring trade. I crawled out and mimed sore throat, shivers, cough, etc and the pharmacist (well, I hope he was a pharmacist) nodded as if he knew what ailed me. Then he gave me three packs of horse pills. I was past caring and gobbled them down.

Back in London, I have just Googled the pills and found that for the last five days I’ve been taking “a broad spectrum” antibiotic for Lyme disease, lurgies of ear and lung, and gonorrhoea. So glad we cleared that up!

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I blame my tuk tuk habit as well as faecal smog. Many visitors avoid them (rickety, noisy, dangerous, honking) but my innate impatience trumped any thoughts of health and safety, and I was charmed by their ability to weave through gridlock in Rajasthan.

The drivers embellish the rear of the rickshaws with motivational slogans. “Avoid Girls Friends Save Money and Time But One Wife in Life” was a popular, if conservative, choice.

I wasn’t quite sure whether #MeToo had cut through in India, yet. The birth ratio for girls in Rajasthan is one of the lowest in India.

When Abdul dropped me in a bazaar one day he was keen for me to use him again, indeed, to use only him, as he made very clear. “If you want I wait for you,” he said, and then continued without pausing, “And if you don’t want I wait for you.”

Eeek! I bet he says that to all the girls.

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