Sir: What James Forsyth calls ‘the EU plan’ to keep Northern Ireland in the customs union after Brexit (‘The Irish problem’, 20 October) would no more ‘ease Northern Ireland away from the UK and push it more towards Dublin’s orbit’ than it has already done itself through numerous legislative differences. With regard to social issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage, Northern Ireland is far closer to the Republic (as it once was) than to the rest of the UK. It would therefore be no great stretch to avoid awkwardness of land border checks (and respect the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement) by having such checks at the sea ports. In addition, a favoured position outside the EU but within the customs union could bring huge economic advantages to Northern Ireland. If not blinded by their ‘Ulster Says No’ ideology, even Arlene Foster’s DUP would probably acknowledge this. It’s high time for Theresa May to call their bluff.
A better solution to the conundrum would, of course, be Irexit (with all of Ireland in a customs union with Britain), but since this is not likely to happen, the suggested plan would be the next best thing. It could even be seen as keeping the Republic within the economic orbit of the UK, with advantages on both sides. So why not simply ask them? A referendum within Northern Ireland on this issue would be far less contentious than the re-run of the Brexit referendum that many are calling for.
This letter appeared in this week’s magazine.