Ireland's Brexit Position is Logically and Legally Impossible


Ireland is driving a hard bargain in negotiations with Boris Johnson, so one-sided that it's legally impossible.

Despite discussion of a "breakthrough" Ireland says no.

Ireland's Position

  1. The UK must agree to the backstop or something else that Ireland and the EU will accept.
  2. Ireland will not accept a hard border.
  3. Ireland will not accept a technological border.
  4. Ireland will not accept a time limit on the backstop.
  5. Ireland will not accept a foods only border proposal.

Guess What?

  • If Ireland and the UK cannot agree to a deal that the EU also accepts, then a hard Brexit ensues unless the UK withdraws article 50.
  • A hard Brexit is the default legal position.
  • In the event of a hard Brexit, the backstop will be gone.

Mathematically Impossible

Ireland's position is mathematically impossible in the event of No Deal.

Ireland will then have to choose between 2, 3, and 5.

Ireland will not choose option 2 as the burden will fall 100% on Ireland. Northern Ireland won't cooperate.

A time limit just buys time. It will not solve the issue. However, a time limit in conjunction with option 3 or 4 is possible.

More likely is a combination of 3 and 5 with possibly an interim 4.

Curious Irony

Unless Ireland bends, a hard Brexit is the most likely outcome.

I suspect Ireland's positions wavers with its assessment of stopping Brexit outright.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

Comments (48)

Sorry, Mish, but a Hard Brexit is no longer the default position. The fact that BoJo acquiesced to the SCUK ruling rather than challenging it on constitutional grounds means the default position is what the remainers say it is.

No. 1-16

If our government had real heroes, it would have aimed for re-unification of the whole country. The problem would've been solved.


Mish, Ireland is a member of the EU. Barnier is the negotiator for the EU. Every time you say Ireland you should substitute EU. You make the same mistake that UK politicians make.


I am an Irish citizen that has lived in Ireland in the last few years, so is Harry-Ireland, he cannot weigh in because it is 8 hours ahead there, almost 3 in the morning. I expect he will have a lot to say about this when he wakes and reads it.

Leo Varadkar is on a tightrope, a lot of his support is from relatively conservative supporters, and at least half the people of Ireland voted AGAINST joining the EU in the first referendum. He is Fine Gael which is the absolute centrist party in Ireland, conservative on law and order. It is made more difficult since he is one of the first gay leaders in the world. A lot of Irish would topple him for that alone even though they would not admit it.

Ireland was forced into the EU, and a lot of Irish still feel that way (I do). Many of you do not understand that the Irish border has been open since 1998 when the Good Friday agreements went into effect. That was long before either the UK or Ireland had such a commitment to the EU. Sure both being in the EU made it that much easier, but it was already open. Ireland does a lot of business with Ulster and vice versa. People live in the north and work in the south, it is really almost as if the island were unified after a millennium of occupation and war, servitude, strife and outright starvation which is not forgotten. My father told me his father's stories about his own grandmother who died when her town was abandoned, young leaving to seek food or wages to help, none ever came back. My own father left Ireland at 20 in 1949. Now almost 200 years after the famine the memories are still very much alive.

So, Leo, a centrist gay man has to deal with a newly first world nation that was slammed back to developing nation status in the GFC. And the UK still occupies Ulster, though Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU. By now the population of NI is 50-50 protestant-Catholic, and the protestants know that so they are against a referendum to allow Ulster to be reunified with the republic. But, they are actually in a minority, because while the religious divide is 50-50 the EU divide is pro EU which the republic still is.

So, follow where I am going here, if NI were either to vote to leave the UK and rejoin Ireland (with religious guarantees by not only Ireland but the EU of course) or if Ireland held a referendum to leave the EU with Brexit, then the backstop would be null and void as a problem. Unfortunately the Irish have a huge appetite for welfare and socialism, so Ireland leaving the EU is not practical, even though most voted against joining in the Treaty of Lisbon vote the first time. Latest polling shows that Ireland would be the last country to leave the welfare teat of Mario Draghi (Christine Lagarde).

But, Ulster could still leave the UK, it was guaranteed that they would have the right to call a referendum at any time to vote on reunification with Ireland in the Good Friday agreement. So, just do that. What Brexit really comes down to no matter the district remainers or leavers live in is to whom is your loyalty? The UK or EU? Clearly England is in favor of leaving, not so Scotland, NI, or Wales. And I do wonder how many leavers would put EU loyalty over their loyalty to the crown and their history. The crown and the parent nation wants to leave, they voted against but that is way different from ditching their history and monarch, as toothless as the monarch now is after Lady Hale basically stole even the right of the monarch to prorogue for the court system.

Mind you, the Taoiseach (pronounced T-sek Gaelic is a funny language) is in a bind way beyond what this report tells you, and Mish I do hope you admit that. The EU has been manipulating this all along. The continent is milking Britain for everything it is worth while governing them and other nations from Frankfurt and the ECB. I keep saying QUICK who here can name the EU president without looking it up? None of you answers, because the presidency changes every year, as a representative of one of the EU nations, this year one country, next year another and maybe 27 years from now your country will have it's person in that office. But, that person has no power anyway, so why would you care? I know the guy's name but nothing else about him, not even what nation he is from, Tusk, but I know a lot more about Mario Draghi and the other rulers of the EU.

Ireland is a special situation and both the UK and EU have to recognize that. Both are playing with fire. Both are using Ireland as a Brexit football in which one side will win and one side will lose, but, Ireland will lose either way.

So, as an Irish passport holder who has family buried at Clonmacnoise for over 900 years I say let Ireland leave the EU. It is a corrupt and collapsing edifice and will be gone in two years anyway. I am surprised Leo V has not thought of this, maybe he has but polling told him that the people want their welfare checks.

The heavy handed treatment by the EU of any article 50 leaver is evidence that it is tottering, was never really viable. The EU is governed by German corporate and to a lesser degree French socialism, and they feel they must win, it is profitable for them to control all of Europe.

Most of you will shrug and say I would like side X or Y to win, but you just do not get what is at stake here. If Brexit is delivered at the end of this month the EU fails, will cease to exist, it might take a few years but it is finished. If the remainers win the UK will lose all pretense to sovereignty and the ECB/Germany will rule all of Europe. In that last part, Europe will never forget old wounds, they will never be really unified. It will have to become a totalitarian empire run from Frankfurt. It will not be your friend.



"Mish, Ireland is a member of the EU. Barnier is the negotiator for the EU. Every time you say Ireland you should substitute EU. You make the same mistake that UK politicians make."

Avid - I make no mistakes - You do. The EU will not throw Ireland under the Bus. If Ireland agrees to a reasonable deal, the EU will almost be forced to go along.



"Sorry, Mish, but a Hard Brexit is no longer the default position."

That is idiocy.

No Deal is the default legal position until one of two things happens

  1. Deal agreed
  2. Resolution 50 scrapped and the UK remains

Not even an extension changes the default. It only changes the date of the legal position trigger.

Sheeesh. Legalities aside

This is an opinion:

  1. Parliament could boot Johnson and decide to remain, but they won't.
  2. Parliament could decide to boot Johnson and hold a referendum but they won't

Note that #2 would NOT change the default legal position, even if the EU agreed to wait

Again Sheeesh.


Mish, I believe you have the actors reversed in your logic. Ireland is not acting; the UK is. They are leaving the EU and therefore changing the status quo. As part of that, they are negotiating their future status. Ireland's stance is in relationship to those negotiations. As part of those negotiations Ireland does not need to accept anything while still being consistent, because the default alternative is a hard Brexit which Ireland acknowledges, meaning they know they may face hard borders as a result of actions taken by the UK. But they don't accept such borders as part of a deal they don't like. Their stance = a deal means no hard borders.



"Mish, I believe you have the actors reversed in your logic."

No, I don't. The default legal position is No Deal. If there is No Deal then Ireland, like everybody else, has to deal with the consequences.

Ireland has demands that are incompatible, in fact mathematically impossible, with No Deal.

If No Deal Happens - the UK will not put in a hard border.

Then Ireland has to decide to put in a hard border itself. Will It? If not? What?

I think not. So, all the UK has to do is call this nonsensical bluff of Ireland.

Ultimately that is all this is. One Giant Bluff.

In the event of No Deal, Ireland will magically agree to something they say they won't. That is mathematically 100% guaranteed!

So, would that be a hard border, or something else? I strongly suggest something else they say they won't do.

What do they do they say they won't in case of No Deal? You tell me how Ireland can impose a solution on the UK.

IT CAN'T (other than a hard border on the Ireland side). Will they do that? Really?



"Ireland has demands that are incompatible, in fact mathematically impossible, with No Deal." Exactly. As I see it, these are only incompatible if you assume the demands also stand in case of No Deal. But they don't: they only stand in relation to having a deal. A hard border is a given if the UK walks. Not much anyone can do about that, since a hard border is the default between any two sovereign nations. No country will accept no border without some sort of treaty.

Deep Purple
Deep Purple

The EU position is rational and calculated. They play for extension in the short-term and they will probably get it. Ireland is only an agent in this, not a sovereign actor.

If BoJo cannot make a new agreement, then the Benn extension letter comes into play. Going for extension would be suicidal for him, so either he will resign or break/circumvent the law (and lose the following VoNC). In this scenario, the LibDems and rebel Tories will have two choices:

  1. no deal Brexit on October 31,
  2. interim government led by Corbyn, Brexit extension and general election. You might say that the opposition is too divided to stand behind Corbyn. The LibDems and rebel Tories don't like him. However, don't forget that it is needed only for a few days and a new VoNC in his government can follow.

In the long term, the continuation of the Brexit game is in the interests of LibDems, rebel Tories and the like. (The same is true for Farage, of course.) It is not urgent to get into power, they can make concessions. The whole political system is crumbling, major parties are living day by day.



Humans make mistakes.

What does "Sheeesh" mean?


No deal suits Ireland just fine. Under a No deal scenario there is a high likelihood that the UK will split up and northern Ireland will choose to join the republic. By carrying out Brexit the Westminster government will have achieved what Irish republicans have been unable to achieve in over a century – unification.


Hi, all. First post here.

At a risk of sounding silly, I wonder if there is any issue with leaving the border unregulated in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Two areas are considered.

(1) Movement of people. Obviously, the Gd Friday Agreement needs to have primacy and remain in place. Since Ireland is (as I understand) an island, this need not leave the rest of the EU with a gaping hole-travellers arriving on the Continent from Ireland still go through immigration control, together with other international travellers.

(2) Goods-tarriff and standards/contraband. There are penalties for the latter, and i suppose status quo is regarded as acceptable? And, should standard she change in future, enforcement mechanisms need not change. As for tarriff matters, these could be negotiated and collected away from the border; declared tax exempt (either totally, or with a high threshold), especially if volume of goods do not justify the cost of collecting; or, in the last resort, Ireland should simply refuse to collect these tarriffs on the EU's behalf, as the Gd Friday Agreement is more important (similarly, the UK will need to exempt from taxes goods flowing in this way).

Am I missing something?



Thanks so much for separating all the wheat from the chaff and for a very incisive account.

The EU will certainly try not to throw Eire under the bus but they and many other people do not yet appreciate that the bus is on a journey elsewhere. Once the UK is out, the biggest risk for the EU is that Ireland will follow.

Veradker's hire wire act will surely end with him falling in the swamp below and his antics will begin to boost the Irexit sentiment for people like the Irish Freedom party.


Holy smokes, you all must be high! And what on earth does Leo's sexuality have to do with any of this? The hate from you people, both sides, couched in 'reasonable' language like this post, is remarkable. Both sides will certainly deserve whatever comes your way from all of this. That said, if you look at all of this from a thousand miles away viewpoint, it is all about English nationalism and nothing else. This Brexit crap is like lancing a boil to solve cancer. The English want out. Let them out. This will all, in the end, result in a non-Euro England, and then the independent Euro member state of Wales, an independent Euro member state of Scotland, and either an independent Euro member state of Northern Ireland or a united Ireland that is a Euro state. It is the only logical result. England is the heavyweight. It wants independence. It will get it. The English countryside is the driver. Remember this post in 10 or 15 years. Mark my word. The UK is finished. PS I literally did a spit take with my orange juice this morning when I read that the phrase 'four brothers' had been said by Boris Johnson referring to the magical way that the four states will come together in love and peace and friendship once brexit occurs. You people slay me!

Heady Chicken
Heady Chicken

No need to be confused, this all makes perfect sense when you realize this is just your good old run-of-the-mill territorial dispute (territory being NI). Ireland is playing for reunification, and would accept sea border within UK, effectively unifying Ireland in all but name. Irish gamble is that UK cannot refuse, because in case of no deal UK and NI economy will suffer tremendous damage, with the natural consequence being that within 2 years NI will beg to join Ireland properly and officially. Boris' gamble is to force through no deal, effectively putting up a land border and bringing NI properly back into UK. The gamble part of this (for UK) is two-fold: one is the assumption that economic damage will be mild enough to cope, and two that violence in NI will not reignite if the border goes up.

As a completely neutral canadian observer, I think UK's bets look much shakier.

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