Fianna Fáil’s Micheál Martin raises a useful question when he worries that the “familial relationship” that Ireland and Britain have developed over the decades as joint members of the European Union might begin to fade away on February 1, the date on which the UK will — given the now certain ratification of the re-negotiated withdrawal treaty — cease membership of the EU’s political assemblies.
It’s a serious worry, since not only the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement, but also the future of trade links and security co-operation, require the closest possible Anglo-Irish relationships.
A possible replacement model to which Mr Martin looks is the Nordic Council.
Comprising Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden, its work has in no way been impededby the fact that some of these states are EU members while others are not.
An almost ready-made option closer to home is the very much extant British-Irish Council.
It was created in 1998 under the Good Friday Agreement.
Bringing together representatives of the Irish and British governments and of the UK’s devolved administrations — plus the Isle of Man, Guernsey, and Jersey — its purpose is to “promote positive, practical relationships among the people of the islands, and toprovide a forum for consultation and co-operation”.
It would need more administrative muscle — money and a few more bureaucrats — than it currently has at its office in Edinburgh, but that shouldn’t be beyond the wit of Dublin and London to organise.
Neither should the role of ambassadors be overlooked when ensuring that the “familial relationship” of which Mr Martin speaks is not put asunder.
The time at long last has come to accept that the UK is to walk away from the institutions of the EU, but also that it will not be leaving our group of islands.