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What’s the point in the backstop if we get a hard border either way?

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  • Registered Users Posts: 2,272 ✭✭✭fash


    Although we did not initiate brexit, we are also actors in this.
    Although you did not willingly put the gun to your head and pull the trigger, you are also an actor in the above scenario - does that mean you committed suicide, yes or no?


  • Registered Users Posts: 2,272 ✭✭✭fash


    But the possibility remains that the UK will try to make a go of it with no deal. In such a scenario, at what point is our policy a mistake, e.g. six months? A year? How long is a short time? Remember that not long ago, the idea that the UK would leave with no deal was pretty much unthinkable yet it now looks like a serious possibility.
    At the point in time the UK gets a deal with the EU without a backstop.
    Edit: Spain is still unhappy about Gibraltar 400 years later- why should we be happy about a hard border?


  • Registered Users Posts: 2,338 ✭✭✭Bit cynical


    fash wrote: »
    Although you did not willingly put the gun to your head and pull the trigger, you are also an actor in the above scenario - does that mean you committed suicide, yes or no?
    It is why your analogy does not work.


  • Registered Users Posts: 2,272 ✭✭✭fash


    It is why your analogy does not work.
    The analogy works perfectly: by brexiting in a particular manner, the UK is forcing Ireland to take certain steps (which it is obliged to take under its international and entirely normal obligations).


  • Registered Users Posts: 2,338 ✭✭✭Bit cynical


    fash wrote: »
    At the point in time the UK gets a deal with the EU without a backstop.
    Edit: Spain is still unhappy about Gibraltar 400 years later- why should we be happy about a hard border?
    Again, the analogy doesn't really work. Spain want Gibraltar, but they are not losing anything by maintaining a claim on it. So they can keep up their claim for as long as they want.

    We want no hard border, but we are putting up with one if there's no deal. This only makes sense if it is for a limited length of time. If it goes on indefinitely then our policy has failed.

    So therefore the question remains: how long before the policy is considered a failure?


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  • Posts: 17,378 ✭✭✭✭ [Deleted User]


    It is why your analogy does not work.

    Are you a member of any forums which follow your viewpoint? I'm interested in reading a bit of the inverse of what you come up against here.


  • Registered Users Posts: 2,338 ✭✭✭Bit cynical


    fash wrote: »
    The analogy works perfectly: by brexiting in a particular manner, the UK is forcing Ireland to take certain steps (which it is obliged to take under its international and entirely normal obligations).


    I'm afraid not. If the UK is holding a gun to our head, we are threatening them by also holding a gun to our head. If we carry out the threat and blow our own head off (even if we also kill them) then this would indeed be suicide.

    This is the nearest I can stretch your analogy to cover the Brexit situation.


  • Posts: 17,378 ✭✭✭✭ [Deleted User]


    I'm afraid not. If the UK is holding a gun to our head, we are threatening them by also holding a gun to our head. If we carry out the threat and blow our own head off (even if we also kill them) then this would indeed be suicide.

    This is the nearest I can stretch your analogy to cover the Brexit situation.

    Suicide is accepting any deal that brings a border. We're shooting our own hand to prevent a bullet to the head. Painful but non-permanent.


  • Registered Users Posts: 2,338 ✭✭✭Bit cynical


    Suicide is accepting any deal that brings a border. We're shooting our own hand to prevent a bullet to the head. Painful but non-permanent.
    I don't think either analogy is perfect.

    What we are trying to do is impose pain on the UK if they don't agree to the deal we want. This is fine.

    However in so doing we also impose pain on ourselves. This includes having the very thing we want to avoid.

    Nothing wrong so far, but it must be limited in time in some way. Now the Irish government can't publicly put a time limit on it. But those of us who support the strategy must have in mind some time period beyond which, if there's no capitulation, the strategy has failed.

    What if its three years from now and this thread is in its fortieth iteration and we're still calling the Brits stupid and xenophobic? They will have moved on; it will no longer be a news item, but we will still have the hard border.


  • Posts: 17,378 ✭✭✭✭ [Deleted User]


    I don't think either analogy is perfect.

    What we are trying to do is impose pain on the UK if they don't agree to the deal we want. This is fine.

    However in so doing we also impose pain on ourselves. This includes having the very thing we want to avoid.

    Nothing wrong so far, but it must be limited in time in some way. Now the Irish government can't publicly put a time limit on it. But those of us who support the strategy must have in mind some time period beyond which, if there's no capitulation, the strategy has failed.

    What if its three years from now and this thread is in its fortieth iteration and we're still calling the Brits stupid and xenophobic? They will have moved on; it will no longer be a news item, but we will still have the hard border.

    Why does everyone except you get the fact that accepting a permanent hard border is worse than a temporary one?

    It's just so obvious. The UK will never seek to actually have no border unless forced. They've already said they would ensure it but they can't be trusted.

    You are constantly running into people on this forum because you don't want to believe the actual outcome of a time limit. A hard border. Guaranteed. 100%. The Irish government is doing the only thing it can in this situation and that is to force the UK into not looking after only England.


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  • Registered Users Posts: 2,338 ✭✭✭Bit cynical


    Why does everyone except you get the fact that accepting a permanent hard border is worse than a temporary one?

    It's just so obvious. The UK will never seek to actually have no border unless forced. They've already said they would ensure it but they can't be trusted.

    You are constantly running into people on this forum because you don't want to believe the actual outcome of a time limit. A hard border. Guaranteed. 100%. The Irish government is doing the only thing it can in this situation and that is to force the UK into not looking after only England.
    The answer is fairly straightforward. We don't know that the hard border we endure due to not compromising on the backstop is temporary. We suspect that at some point the UK will come round and accept the backstop but we do not know it.

    The problem is that if you hold that the period of no deal is temporary, how are you proved wrong? You can always maintain that it is just another year and they will cave.

    This is why there has to be some sort of time limit by which to judge the success of the strategy.


  • Posts: 17,378 ✭✭✭✭ [Deleted User]


    The answer is fairly straightforward. We don't know that the hard border we endure due to not compromising on the backstop is temporary. We suspect that at some point the UK will come round and accept the backstop but we do not know it.

    The problem is that if you hold that the period of no deal is temporary, how are you proved wrong? You can always maintain that it is just another year and they will cave.

    This is why there has to be some sort of time limit by which to judge the success of the strategy.

    What would you suggest as some sort of limit?

    This is all academic anyways. In the same way they want to renege on their promise of no border, they can and probably will renege on the backstop, even if they sign up to it.


  • Registered Users Posts: 2,338 ✭✭✭Bit cynical


    What would you suggest as some sort of limit?

    This is all academic anyways. In the same way they want to renege on their promise of no border, they can and probably will renege on the backstop, even if they sign up to it.
    Well, I have never been a fan of the current strategy. I think the EU are using the backstop as a means of discouraging member states to remain in the EU. In the case of the UK it is the backstop; in some future exit it would be something else. It is a genuine concern of Ireland that there be no border on the island, but it is being used by the EU for a different purpose.

    I am OK with this except that the burden falls disproportionately on Ireland if the strategy fails.

    Therefore those who advocate the strategy need to have in their minds a time beyond which they can say that the strategy is no longer working. No matter what the strategy is, there has to be failure criteria.


  • Posts: 17,378 ✭✭✭✭ [Deleted User]


    Well, I have never been a fan of the current strategy. I think the EU are using the backstop as a means of discouraging member states to remain in the EU. In the case of the UK it is the backstop; in some future exit it would be something else. It is a genuine concern of Ireland that there be no border on the island, but it is being used by the EU for a different purpose.

    I am OK with this except that the burden falls disproportionately on Ireland if the strategy fails.

    Therefore those who advocate the strategy need to have in their minds a time beyond which they can say that the strategy is no longer working. No matter what the strategy is, there has to be failure criteria.

    Well we are in total disagreement regarding your first paragraph. I think the EU would love nothing more than Ireland dropping the backstop.

    Your point seems to rely on the idea that leaving would be fine if not for this complication, whereas I believe leaving is catastrophic even in the best of circumstances, mostly because of existing trade deals around the world evaporating. I don't think the EU is using this to strengthen the blow, I think they're doing it to support a member.


  • Registered Users Posts: 2,338 ✭✭✭Bit cynical


    Well we are in total disagreement regarding your first paragraph. I think the EU would love nothing more than Ireland dropping the backstop.

    Your point seems to rely on the idea that leaving would be fine if not for this complication, whereas I believe leaving is catastrophic even in the best of circumstances, mostly because of existing trade deals around the world evaporating. I don't think the EU is using this to strengthen the blow, I think they're doing it to support a member.
    I'm not suggesting it is an overt strategy on the part of the EU. If Ireland dropped the backstop, the EU would immediately drop it, but there would be no public complaint by the EU. But while Ireland is insisting on it, the EU can use it as a means of discouraging other member states from leaving (we've had posters express this same sentiment on this forum). As an aside, Hogan, the commissioner from Ireland said that he had never seen anything like the support Ireland has got from the EU.

    On the second point, no I think leaving will tend to be worse than staying in from an economic point of view particularly in the short term, though I do respect their right to leave. But my point does not depend on that. My point is simply that if you advocate a particular strategy, you must also be able to specify failure criteria.


  • Posts: 17,378 ✭✭✭✭ [Deleted User]


    I'm not suggesting it is an overt strategy on the part of the EU. If Ireland dropped the backstop, the EU would immediately drop it, but there would be no public complaint by the EU. But while Ireland is insisting on it, the EU can use it as a means of discouraging other member states from leaving (we've had posters express this same sentiment on this forum). As an aside, Hogan, the commissioner from Ireland said that he had never seen anything like the support Ireland has got from the EU.

    On the second point, no I think leaving will tend to be worse than staying in from an economic point of view particularly in the short term, though I do respect their right to leave. But my point does not depend on that. My point is simply that if you advocate a particular strategy, you must also be able to specify failure criteria.

    I still disagree. The NI situation being the sticking point makes leaving the EU more palatable to other countries' populations who don't have that same issue.

    The whole thing is falling apart, not because of leaving the EU, but because of a specific history and border.


  • Registered Users Posts: 2,338 ✭✭✭Bit cynical


    I still disagree. The NI situation being the sticking point makes leaving the EU more palatable to other countries' populations who don't have that same issue.

    The whole thing is falling apart, not because of leaving the EU, but because of a specific history and border.


    On the first point, I think there will always be something in addition to simply leaving the EU that can be used. Brexit sets a precedent. Something that is not intrinsic to leaving the EU, in this case a treaty between member states is being used. It means that anything can be used in future. If Spain, for example, wanted to leave but a particular region wanted to stay, that could be used. There are no rules.

    On the second point, maybe so. But Ireland is still pursuing a particular strategy (advocated by many on here) and that strategy requires criteria by which failure (not merely success) can be judged.


  • Posts: 17,378 ✭✭✭✭ [Deleted User]


    On the first point, I think there will always be something in addition to simply leaving the EU that can be used. Brexit sets a precedent. Something that is not intrinsic to leaving the EU, in this case a treaty between member states is being used. It means that anything can be used in future. If Spain, for example, wanted to leave but a particular region wanted to stay, that could be used. There are no rules.

    On the second point, maybe so. But Ireland is still pursuing a particular strategy (advocated by many on here) and that strategy requires criteria by which failure (not merely success) can be judged.

    The concerns aren't concocted though. They're real things affecting real people. A country's sovereign right to leave doesn't mean it should be easy, and for some countries, it will be extremely difficult and complicated. Few more so than the UK dealing with Northern Ireland.

    So yes, you can argue that there will always being be "something", but that doesn't negate the validity of that something.


  • Registered Users Posts: 2,338 ✭✭✭Bit cynical


    The concerns aren't concocted though. They're real things affecting real people. A country's sovereign right to leave doesn't mean it should be easy, and for some countries, it will be extremely difficult and complicated. Few more so than the UK dealing with Northern Ireland.

    So yes, you can argue that there will always being be "something", but that doesn't negate the validity of that something.
    Even if I'm wrong on the idea that the EU is using the backstop issue for its own purposes (and I don't think I am), I'm still interested in knowing the answer to my other question of those who advocate the current strategy. As fash pointed out, Spain is still waiting for Gibraltar for the last 400 years. The average Spaniard is not paying a price for this so they can probably wait another 400 years.

    But how do we know if we have the wrong strategy bearing in mind that we pay a price for each year the strategy continues?


  • Posts: 17,378 ✭✭✭✭ [Deleted User]


    Even if I'm wrong on the idea that the EU is using the backstop issue for its own purposes (and I don't think I am), I'm still interested in knowing the answer to my other question of those who advocate the current strategy. As fash pointed out, Spain is still waiting for Gibraltar for the last 400 years. The average Spaniard is not paying a price for this so they can probably wait another 400 years.

    But how do we know if we have the wrong strategy bearing in mind that we pay a price for each year the strategy continues?

    We can't. But most agree that forcing the issue while we have leverage is the best strategy.

    I am fully behind Ireland's insistence on a backstop, simply because the alternative is the UK signing a trade deal with a country like the US guaranteeing a permanent border because of different standards.

    This conversation can be hashed out a million times a million different ways. The underlying issue however never changes. Temporary is better than permanent.

    It is inconvenient that our world's trade works this way, but Brexit isn't going to change that. Allowing the UK the room to simply do what it likes isn't in Ireland's best interests, even if the short-term is supremely difficult.


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  • Registered Users Posts: 2,338 ✭✭✭Bit cynical


    This conversation can be hashed out a million times a million different ways. The underlying issue however never changes. Temporary is better than permanent.
    However, as I said, how do we know it is temporary? You are entitled to support our Government's approach. If it succeeds we will know. But if it is the wrong strategy, how will we know? This question remains.

    Spain's approach to Gibraltar has not failed, but neither has it succeeded after 400 years. Technically we can't say that it is not temporary but most will agree that it may as well be permanent.

    You mention that the alternative is the UK signing a trade deal with a country like the US thereby making the border permanent. But if they exit with no deal they are free to do just that. How does not compromising prevent them?

    You see, even putting aside considerations like fair play and good faith in negotiations, it may be the case that Ireland is not intelligently looking after its own interests.


  • Posts: 17,378 ✭✭✭✭ [Deleted User]


    However, as I said, how do we know it is temporary? You are entitled to support our Government's approach. If it succeeds we will know. But if it is the wrong strategy, how will we know? This question remains.

    Spain's approach to Gibraltar has not failed, but neither has it succeeded after 400 years. Technically we can't say that it is not temporary but most will agree that it may as well be permanent.

    You mention that the alternative is the UK signing a trade deal with a country like the US thereby making the border permanent. But if they exit with no deal they are free to do just that. How does not compromising prevent them?

    You see, even putting aside considerations like fair play and good faith in negotiations, it may be the case that Ireland is not intelligently looking after its own interests.

    We don't know. Like really, it is impossible to know what is best with what is happening. You question the current approach but what would you do different?

    I don't "like" anything, but I like the backstop the most because it gives both parties in the negotiation time to sort it out without a deadline. The time limit idea would hinder the UK massively if it truly went for a deal with the EU.

    As to what would prevent the UK from signing a deal with the US in the case of a no deal, I just don't think Parliament could ever do it knowing it was bye bye Europe. It would be truly extraordinary. Possible, but just incredible.


  • Moderators, Category Moderators, Arts Moderators, Business & Finance Moderators, Entertainment Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 18,284 CMod ✭✭✭✭Nody


    However, as I said, how do we know it is temporary? You are entitled to support our Government's approach. If it succeeds we will know. But if it is the wrong strategy, how will we know? This question remains.

    Spain's approach to Gibraltar has not failed, but neither has it succeeded after 400 years. Technically we can't say that it is not temporary but most will agree that it may as well be permanent.

    You mention that the alternative is the UK signing a trade deal with a country like the US thereby making the border permanent. But if they exit with no deal they are free to do just that. How does not compromising prevent them?

    You see, even putting aside considerations like fair play and good faith in negotiations, it may be the case that Ireland is not intelligently looking after its own interests.
    You know Cynical I've read your every post on this thread and you're doing exactly the same thing as HoC is doing; you tell us what you don't want but you offer no alternative strategy or route. You've spent the whole thread complaining about the strategy but never once do you mention what you think should be done instead.

    Hence I'll have to echo Ads by Google and ask; what exactly do you want done instead? If there's a time limit what happens after that time limit runs out without a solution etc.? What's the "right" solution to you keeping in mind the commitments Ireland has under EU and WTO legislation in terms of enforcing borders to third party countries.


  • Registered Users Posts: 2,272 ✭✭✭fash


    I don't think either analogy is perfect.

    What we are trying to do is impose pain on the UK if they don't agree to the deal we want. This is fine.

    However in so doing we also impose pain on ourselves. This includes having the very thing we want to avoid.

    Nothing wrong so far, but it must be limited in time in some way. Now the Irish government can't publicly put a time limit on it. But those of us who support the strategy must have in mind some time period beyond which, if there's no capitulation, the strategy has failed.

    What if its three years from now and this thread is in its fortieth iteration and we're still calling the Brits stupid and xenophobic? They will have moved on; it will no longer be a news item, but we will still have the hard border.
    I would say that the strategy failed if after around 50 years, the UK had moved on and thrived without a deal with the EU and during all that time had a significant and stable majority who were happy with that (not having a EU deal) and the people of both Northern Ireland itself and the UK had a significant and stable majority in favour of a hard border. Everything else is short term pain for long term gain at worst.


  • Registered Users Posts: 2,272 ✭✭✭fash


    You mention that the alternative is the UK signing a trade deal with a country like the US thereby making the border permanent. But if they exit with no deal they are free to do just that. How does not compromising prevent them?
    Actually they may not be free to sign such deals with the US unless they give way on the border - for example:
    https://mobile.twitter.com/sfinbar/status/1091400357228498947
    This is Richard Neal 3 weeks before his election. He’s the new chairman of the House Ways and Means committee. Any FTA goes through him and he will be in that position for many many years. A US-UK deal that doesn’t guarantee status quo in NI? Nope.
    https://www.irishecho.com/2018/10/neal-on-the-border/

    However if the Irish government agree to a hard border between NI and Ireland, Irish American politicians can hardly object to it.


  • Registered Users Posts: 2,272 ✭✭✭fash


    Nody wrote: »
    Hence I'll have to echo Ads by Google and ask; what exactly do you want done instead? If there's a time limit what happens after that time limit runs out without a solution etc.? What's the "right" solution to you keeping in mind the commitments Ireland has under EU and WTO legislation in terms of enforcing borders to third party countries.
    Actually I do have an alternative clause that I would accept: "the UK shall find, deliver and install "alternative arrangements" to ensure no hard border between NI and Ireland (in either direction), and for each day that it fails to do so, shall pay (say) €1 billion to Ireland."
    In that case, I would have reasonable confidence that they would find a way - or at least compensate Ireland for the inconvenience.


  • Registered Users Posts: 2,272 ✭✭✭fash


    As an aside, Hogan, the commissioner from Ireland said that he had never seen anything like the support Ireland has got from the EU.
    Absolutely they have: the majority of European countries are small and/or have land borders and a history of being invaded and having borders forced upon them. They have considerable sympathy for the arrogant mistreatment of Ireland by the UK - especially those bordering Russia who are concerned about its behaviour in Ukraine, Georgia etc. or Germany with its history of the Berlin wall. The people currently in charge of these countries grew up in the 1970s and 1980s seeing the same things we did of car bomb and car bomb, shooting after shooting (seriously talk to them about it). Furthermore, if that was not "natural" sympathy from countries themselves and instead some sort of "Borg" like virus which has infected the minds of members of governments of other European states to support the EU to the detriment of their own natural sympathies - precisely how did that virus spread so far and so deep - to every member of government and civil service of every EU member state (with the exception of the Polish foreign minister).


  • Registered Users Posts: 2,338 ✭✭✭Bit cynical


    Nody wrote: »
    You know Cynical I've read your every post on this thread and you're doing exactly the same thing as HoC is doing; you tell us what you don't want but you offer no alternative strategy or route. You've spent the whole thread complaining about the strategy but never once do you mention what you think should be done instead.

    Hence I'll have to echo Ads by Google and ask; what exactly do you want done instead? If there's a time limit what happens after that time limit runs out without a solution etc.? What's the "right" solution to you keeping in mind the commitments Ireland has under EU and WTO legislation in terms of enforcing borders to third party countries.

    Like I have said, I am not suggesting that the Government publicly states a time limit. Then all the UK would have to do is outlast that date. It is that anyone advocating the current course of action should be prepared to state what they think constitutes failure of the strategy.

    I think we should also recognise that by an earlier criterion, the UK leaving without a deal is already failure. Even failure to have the deal ratified in the HoC could be considered not just May's failure but failure of the strategy. This was not meant to happen. Also, I don't believe I am misrepresenting this forum when I say that we thought not too long ago that strengthening of the UK parliament as a result of Gina Miller's intervention would work in our favour, but this has resulted in a setback for us more decisive than we could have imagined. This is all stuff going wrong for us and we are helping make it go wrong for us.

    Also consider a couple of other things that the EU have insisted upon in the agreements. 1. The rights of EU citizens after Brexit. The UK have said that these are guaranteed even in a no deal brexit. 2. The agreement also states that the CTA will continue as part of the agreement, but even in the event of no deal the CTA will continue. In fact, the only calls I have seen for it to end have been on this forum. There has never been any resistance to these things in the UK. The only thing there seems to have been a problem with is the backstop which May reluctantly agreed to in December 17 possibly in the hope that negotiations could continue and there would be some sort of deal.

    What is the solution I want? I think if there's no deal and the UK crashes out, we have to treat it as a reset. The WA will be dead. That issue will be at that point settled. The UK will be a third country like any other. The hard border will now exist. We need to recognise that the UK will always have a huge problem with the backstop.

    We will need to negotiate other ways of minimising the impact of the border on the Island. This will happen anyway. Our government might publicly hold out for a guaranteed legal solution to the border knowing it is not realistic but behind the scenes they will be working with officials on the other side to minimise the border issues and coordinate customs information sharing. This is similar to the ways that Ireland cooperated in secret with the UK in the last war.

    The EU have entered into negotiations in an antagonistic manner and this has not turned out well for us as far as I can see. Nor, in my opinion, has it been necessary. Our leaders support the current EU approach because they can't back out; they can't be seen to be less strident on the backstop than is the EU. But privately, I think they probably see it as a mistake.

    I think at base, we need to stop seeing a country leaving the EU as an attack on us. Doing so means we concentrate too much on trying to reverse that decision without properly assessing the realism of that approach. Hence we think that it is no big deal for them to call another referendum even though in the UK that would be a highly controversial decision.

    My worry is that we'll go on year after year with a failed strategy without realising that the joke is on us. This is why the first step is defining the criteria for the failure of the current strategy. I think most people will agree that there has to be some point where you say "this isn't working" and you start to consider something else.


  • Registered Users Posts: 2,338 ✭✭✭Bit cynical


    fash wrote: »
    I would say that the strategy failed if after around 50 years, the UK had moved on and thrived without a deal with the EU and during all that time had a significant and stable majority who were happy with that (not having a EU deal) and the people of both Northern Ireland itself and the UK had a significant and stable majority in favour of a hard border. Everything else is short term pain for long term gain at worst.
    At least that is a figure: fifty years. Thank you. Something concrete.


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  • Registered Users Posts: 36,270 ✭✭✭✭LuckyLloyd


    On the first point, I think there will always be something in addition to simply leaving the EU that can be used. Brexit sets a precedent. Something that is not intrinsic to leaving the EU, in this case a treaty between member states is being used. It means that anything can be used in future. If Spain, for example, wanted to leave but a particular region wanted to stay, that could be used. There are no rules.

    Sir Ivan Rogers addressed the question of ‘can Article 50 work as an exiting process?’ in his recent speech to UCL. He concluded that it can so long as the exiting country has worked out its desired end point ahead of triggering the process. In this case the UK has been completely hamstrung by its own self imposed negotiating limitations. NI is but one choice or trade off not worked through and agreed internally before they sat down to face the EU. Trying to negotiate with itself and with a formidable negotiating opponent in parallel was always doomed to fail. The only criticism one may have of the EU in this scenario is pressing home their advantage too hard? But I don’t personally see it that way - that we should threaten the European project to give concessions to a dangerous incompetent soon to be competitor.

    The point remains though: it didn’t need to be like this. But the UK has lost its way substantially and so we are here due to their repeated political errors and lack of honesty on the realities of the various choices that must be made. In the final analysis, this is their problem to solve. Not ours. We must not agree to any weakening of our sovereignty or major market just because they put themselves in a bind!


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