Lord Peter Lilley’s comments, on the BBC’s Newsnight programme, cast serious doubts as to whether politicians supporting Brexit really understand what is going on, especially concerning Northern Ireland. On the subject of the Irish backstop, he suggested that if France were to leave the EU, the beautiful island of Corsica would not tolerate a border that is anything else but frictionless, and France would certainly reject a Corsican backstop à la Northern Ireland.
Imagine France was required to have customs procedures between mainland France and Corsica. – Lord Peter Lilley
I checked with Google maps to see if my geography was still up to date. If I’m not mistaken, Corsica is still in the middle of the sea, still has no land neighbours, and still belongs to France.
It is quite astonishing that nobody took him up on his senseless comparison, unless of course, nobody listened.
Corsica is a beautiful island that is almost bankrupt and depends heavily on subsidies from Paris. The island survives mainly on a German invasion during the summer months and does not export much, apart from wine. In fact, the nearest that Corsica came to a trade surplus was when a $27m Picasso was seized from a boat dock in 2015.
The “Ile de Beauté” (Island of Beauty) has a special status since 2018. The island comprises a “collectivité” (collectivity) that replaces the two former French départements of Corse and Haute-Corse. Although the collectivity benefits from a greater degree of autonomy than other French collectivities – Corsica has its own assembly – the island still remains under French administration.
Being under French administration does not signify that Corsicans do not have their differences with the Parisian elite and peace on the island is constantly threatened by the separatists. In April this year, Emmanuel Macron paid a visit to the island, reiterating that Corsica would have autonomy without the ability to pass laws. The autonomy would be limited to, “adapting norms within the scope of its competency […] autonomy in the Republic.”
So what would happen in the case of Frexit? If France were to leave the EU, she would take Corsica with her, whether the Corsicans like it or not. But would the negotiations between Paris and Brussels really comprise the setting-up of a Corsican backstop? The border between France and Corsica would be unaffected by Frexit for the simple reason that there is no border between France and Corsica that could be affected by Frexit. The present border and customs control would remain unaffected. What would change, of course, is the trading relationship between Corsica and the EU, in the same way that France’s trading relationship with the EU would change.
Peter Lilley’s arguments are in line with those of his prime minister, the entire government and most of the opposition parties. The UK’s vision of what Brexit actually means and entails is blatantly lacking understanding and is totally void of reason.
Leaving the EU should be based on facts, not on fiction and emotions. The EU, through its chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, has painfully come up with a deal that the UK refuses to see as the only deal that respects the Good Friday agreement and protects the single market. For Barnier, “agreement or not, it is not the end of the story. The whole future relationship with the UK remains to be defined.”
Brexit is a position the UK will be in and not a final destination. If Peter Lilley’s thoughts are anything to go by, the destination seems to be getting more and more lost in the mist, and the London-to-Brussels train arriving on Platforms 6, 7 and 8, is seriously derailed.