Theresa May’s keynote speech in Belfast, delivered earlier today at the Waterfront Hall, pushed a demand from the British Government — as it struggles to reconcile its position in Ireland with its preferred Brexit design — that the EU, and not Britain, ‘evolve’ its position in regard to Ireland.

The arrogance of that demand aside, with the contradictions of Britain’s Brexit position unfolding now in plain sight — these born of her earlier partition of Ireland and continuing claim to sovereignty in the Six Counties — there is a pressing requirement that Irish nationalism evolve and adjust its own stance.

The rhetoric of recent years that there should be no hard border in Ireland must now be jettisoned, with a clear demand issued in its stead that Britain withdraw her claim to sovereignty, ensuring thus that the issue of the border be dealt with in the only way practical — by finally effecting its end.

Britain, ultimately, must accept the sovereignty of Ireland and allow her people the same opportunity for national development that they voted for themselves in the Brexit referendum. That must be the message to come now from the representatives of Irish nationalism.

Despite the efforts of May to present her Chequers paper as a ‘coherent package’ — one that can withstand the contradictions here noted — it remains, no matter, that Britain cannot reconcile Brexit with earlier realities of her making, namely Partition and the denial of Ireland’s national rights.

The only workable solution, then, is for Britain to leave Ireland, unless the wishes of a unionist enclave are to thwart and take precedence over the wishes of the British people. There is surely, indeed, an irony to that, in that the unionist veto is now taking precedence not only over Ireland’s right to self-determine but over Britain’s too.

No matter that veto, the reality is that Britain simply cannot maintain the Union and implement Brexit at the same time. As the substance of Brexit comes speeding into sight, it is clear that it is Britain, not Europe, who must ‘evolve’ her position. Britain’s Brexit design is unworkable, for she cannot exit the European Union — in line with the Brexit referendum result — while retaining her claims to Ireland. The two are not compatible.

Britain, then, must make way for Irish Unity and Irish nationalism must encourage that outcome. With Ireland post-Brexit facing tremendous upheaval, a British exit not just from Europe but Ireland represents clear best option under the circumstances. No fear or difficulty should present those concerned when it comes to the making of that case.

Were Britain to state her intent to leave Ireland, a national dialogue on the mechanics of unity can from there and in turn proceed. Through such, the Irish people can determine together their own affairs and future, inclusive of what approach can best limit the damage impending. It is to here that all concerned in the ongoing Brexit crisis should now look.

Sean Bresnahan

Chair, Thomas Ashe Society Omagh