Golf points the way to Ireland breakthrough

Sorting out the Northern Ireland back-stop.

By Robert Green

As you will know, the Open Championship this year will be held at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland. This coincidence of timing got me to thinking about the issue of the moment – the sorting out of the Northern Ireland back-stop, disputes about which have caused ructions involving millions of people while sending an equal number into deep slumber every time there’s a news bulletin. Right now, this seems to be the key subject blocking the UK’s orderly exit from the European Union.

Golf points the way to Ireland breakthrough

What first prompted me to think ‘out of the box’ to find a solution in the particular manner I did was a piece in The Guardian last week which included the remark from one person that “perhaps someone from an outside country could sit down with the main players and calm it all down – say Barack Obama?”

Or what about Donald Trump? Here’s the plan in outline. The UK sells Northern Ireland to him. Deutsche Bank will surely lend him the money; it always does. Say we throw in a few rounds of golf with Rory McIlroy (he’s already played with him once, so they’re practically firm pals) to really grab the president’s interest. He already has a golf property in the Republic of Ireland and he may well fancy a northern expansion. From a political perspective, since Northern Ireland would now be neither part of the UK or the EU, nobody would be looking to keep it in any customs union. Not only has the problem gone away, all the way across the Atlantic in fact, but the UK government is in funds.

Obviously it will all go wrong, spectacularly so when The Donald decides that, since he’s been thwarted on his southern border at home, he’s going to build a wall to separate the two Irelands. In the face of all hell breaking loose, he’ll cut his losses and sell it back to the UK for a fraction of what he paid for it. OK, so the back-stop issue will then need to be readdressed, but, given the financial upside of the process, everyone at Westminster will be far more relaxed about matters and the whole thing would get resolved over a round of golf at Portmarnock. And, of course, the most alluring attraction of this strategy is that the entire deal will have been funded by the Germans!

I appreciate ardent Brexiteers will be disappointed this would necessitate a delay of a few months beyond March 29 before we could formally leave the EU – it would obviously be out of the question for the R&A to stage the Open in a country that’s under American ownership! – but all considered one would hope that wise heads would prevail and this would prove to be a fruitful way forward. Has anyone got a better idea? If so, write to Mrs T. May, 10 Downing Street, London SW1.

You can follow Robert Green on Twitter @robrtgreen and enjoy his other blog plus you can read more by him on golf at

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