In search of the most painless way to exit the EU

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Fintan O’Toole convincingly argues that Britain’s negotiating ploy on the Irish border is really “an early move in the blame game” (, 17 August). Theresa May’s DUP allies are easily persuaded there will be a “frictionless” Irish border, but most people fear an unworkable, “hard” border disaster. Despite creating the need for this border, cynical Brexiters can wax lyrical about not wanting a hard border, knowing the EU and the Irish government will have to try to secure the border of the single market. The leaky land border is completely unfit for purpose, and they hope Brussels and Dublin will get the blame when disaster occurs. The British want to control immigration but that’s better done at Britain’s ports and airports.

But do the Brexiters have more malign motives? If the UK were in a customs union with the EU, the latter’s Irish border problem would be removed at a stroke. The Brexiters want a new type of customs union that not only gives access to the single market but also permits making their own trade deals. To get this unprecedented customs union, are they holding Ireland hostage, including as Democratic Unionists will realise if or when Britain’s ploy fails? And/or are the more extreme Brexiters (maybe in a deal with Trump’s regime) hoping to engineer an early exit which would seriously damage the EU as well as Ireland? It’s a conspiracy theory, but some of these people thrive on conspiracy.
Prof James Anderson
Mitchell Institute, Queen’s University Belfast

Fintan O’Toole’s forensic analysis of the UK government’s risible position paper on the Irish border should be compulsory reading for . It would then be clear to her that Brexit means Brexit; the UK cannot be in and out of the EU at the same time, which is the illogical thrust of the position paper. Not content with wanting to have their cake and eat it, the UK government seems to expect the EU to pay for the ingredients and bake it.
Mike Pender
Cardiff

So Mrs May’s government would like to see no borders between the UK and Ireland after Brexit (, 17 August). That would seem to be an excellent idea which we could extend to the rest of Europe. Why, it might be worth joining the EU to achieve such an objective! Hang on a minute…
John Ellis
Tavistock, Devon

How on earth does the government hope to get “frictionless trade” and avoid “hard” borders when we leave the EU (, 16 August)? Surely the whole point of Brexit for most of those who voted for it was to avoid all those EU rules and regulations and to close our borders with the outside world as tightly as possible? And why do the Tories think the EU will agree to such a plainly ridiculous deal? You can’t be half in and half out of the EU any more than you can be half pregnant: it is a ludicrous fantasy.

What a pity and Labour are also in a fantasy world where we can preserve the “nice” bits of EU membership but avoid the more difficult ones, leaving us with the discredited Lib Dems as the only party campaigning for the UK to remain a full member of the EU. By now we all know that there are massive difficulties and dangers if we walk away from all our neighbours and do dodgy deals with Donald Trump’s America, the Chinese and India, and most of the problems will hit the poorest half of our country hardest. When will we get a government that will govern on behalf of all of our people?
David Reed
London

We are currently on course for a cliff-edge . We are trying, but I believe doomed to fail, to reach an agreement by March 2019 on an interim or a transitional deal. These terms suggest we have reached an agreement in sufficient detail to have something to transition to. It will be impossible to reach such an agreement by March 2019. To avoid the disastrous “cliff edge” we need to have “something” in place by March 2019.

One proposed option is the continuation of the status quo allowing us to carry on trading exactly as we do now for an interim period while an alternative agreement is reached and implemented over a transitional period.

There will not be the time or the political appetite by the EU to reach such an agreement by March 2019 on anything other than the status quo. However, even an agreement on the status quo is not without its legal and political problems and therefore is a high-risk venture.

A much safer way would be to extend the article 50 period for another three years. The article 50 rule as a mechanism to withdraw from the EU with its two-year timetable was never suitable for a country the UK’s size of the UK with our deep and complex relationship developed over 43 years.
Phil Beyer
Solihull, West Midlands

Marina Hyde suggests (, 19 August) that Big Ben should fall silent at precisely midnight, “allowing it to serve as post-imperial Britain’s completed version of the Doomsday Clock”. May I suggest that 6.23 would be a far more relevant moment?
Mike Gogan
Malvern, Worcestershire

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