Thursday, January 26, 2023

How to solve a problem like the log

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In a wide-ranging interview on “Eamonn Mallie Face to Face with…”, the former Labor leader added that he was confident the peace would hold despite the tensions that Brexit had brought and that people on the Island of Ireland were determined to ensure that there could be no return to the past.

The program can be viewed again on Latest Page NewsX

Also in the discussion, Sir Tony talks about his early years and what he learned from his parents, his holiday in Ireland and key moments working on the Good Friday Agreement and beyond.

Asked whether the DUP’s objection that the Protocol separated Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK was ‘valid’, Sir Tony said: ‘In a way what they’re saying is right… the problem is that it’s out resulting from Brexit”.

He added: “Once you make the external border of the European Union the border between north and south in Ireland, you will have taken the UK out of the single market and customs union.

“Of course the Europeans say that you have to have border controls.

“If you want to abolish these border controls, which we are doing because of the peace process and because we want to keep the border open, then you need to find a way that goods made in Britain cannot be transferred to Northern Ireland and then into the European Union without controls .

“So, I mean, does the Northern Ireland Protocol mean that Northern Ireland will be treated differently than it was when it was part of the single market and customs union? Well, to an extent, but the whole purpose of the protocol was to find a way around that.

“And it was eventually agreed by the UK Government and the European Union.

“Well my own belief is that if both sides are flexible and you take the ideology out of it and just look at the practicality, because most goods that come in from the UK and go to Northern Ireland stay in Northern Ireland.

“I think if you approach this in a practical way you can find a solution and I hope we find a solution and now that, for example, Kier Starmer has said that from a Labor perspective he will support the Government and We will not engage in politics on this issue. It should be possible, but you know, when people say to me, ‘Well, why do we have this problem in Northern Ireland?’

“We would always have a problem in Northern Ireland. with the border. If the UK leaves the European Union, the Republic of Ireland will not, and we are leaving the economic fabric as well as the political.”Brexit, he said, has “clearly” strained the Union, but he hopes it will not break it up.

He added: “A majority of people in Scotland and a majority of people in Northern Ireland voted against Brexit.

“They wanted to remain part of Europe. They recognized that it was in their economic and political interests to do so and, frankly, nothing has happened since Brexit that would make them think they had the wrong view.

“Of course that is one of the reasons why it is so important to get this Northern Ireland Protocol issue resolved quickly.

“It’s important because the longer it goes the greater the strain on the Union, which is why it’s always been bizarre to me, to be honest, that the Union movement was pro-Brexit.”

He said Brexit cannot be undone for this generation.

Sir Tony added: “But what you can do is fix it and make sure you deal with the issues of Brexit like the Northern Ireland Protocol.

“You can build relationships with Europe, you can build structures of pillars of cooperation and understanding.

“We can change our legal and political relationships, but we cannot change our geography if you take the train from London to Paris faster than Edinburgh or even Newcastle some days.

“So the idea, which is always reasonable for us to separate from our continent, so okay, we did Brexit, you can’t undo it, at least for this generation, because people don’t want to get back into the argument of division .

“But you have to solve the problems and accept that there are problems.”

Eamonn Mallie Face to Face with Tony Blair aired Wednesday 25th January at 9pm and is available now on Latest Page News X here.

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