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Boris' tunnel vision is not what we need

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson . Photo: Leon Neal/PA Wire

Prime Minister Boris Johnson . Photo: Leon Neal/PA Wire

PA

Prime Minister Boris Johnson . Photo: Leon Neal/PA Wire

We pointed out in Saturday's Belfast Telegraph how it was time for 'politicians to offer a hint of hope', especially in light of last week's announcement that some restrictions are likely to extend into 2022.

With little prospect of any meaningful easing of lockdown in the short term, there's a sense that the public at large could do with something to look forward to as we face into more weeks of restrictions. Something tangible, something practical.

A tunnel under the Irish Sea to Britain was not what we had in mind. But convention and logic have never been PM Boris Johnson's strongest suits.

Doom and gloom are everywhere as Northern Ireland struggles with the twin crises of Covid and Brexit. It is the latter, and in particular the Northern Ireland protocol, which has emerged since the start of the year as our latest hot potato.

If you were being unkind, you could say it's a joke to float the idea of a 'Boris burrow' at a time when the delivery of eo many basics from Britain to Northern Ireland is causing grief. Would a tunnel be a good thing? Of course it would, you'd be hard-pressed to find anybody in Northern Ireland - or indeed the Republic - who would not be interested in taking the direct route across the Irish Sea.

But as commentator Wesley Johnston writes here today, there are simply not enough people on this island to provide the level of commerce needed to justify it.

It is hard to take seriously when there's not even a motorway between Northern Ireland's two largest cities and many roads are in dire need of an upgrade. And that's before we get into the problems our public transport companies face.

The protocol has yet again polarised debate between unionists, for whom the link to Britain is absolutely central, and nationalists.

But there's little real evidence from either Westminster or Brussels that there is any real plan to ditch the protocol - despite unionist fury at any divergence between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

A tunnel is not a serious way of sorting this issue and anyone who thinks it would somehow make the consequences of the UK's exit from the European Union go away is obviously mistaken. There are many better ways of spending the vast sums of money such a project would cost. It's always good to dream and people need a bit of a distraction at the minute. Unfortunately, massive infrastructural projects based on wishful thinking are doomed to fail. Forget pie in the sky, the Boris burrow is more high tea in the sea.

Belfast Telegraph


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