The Brexit phoney war is over and its time for Ireland to pick our side
THe result of the Brexit referendum in June 2016 sent shockwaves through Europe - and through the British Conservative party - with many fearing the vote would start an 'independence' domino effect across the continent.
Given the scale of the political and democratic crisis caused by Brexit it is perhaps understandable that most European Governments - including that of the UK - didn't know how to react in the immediate wake of the shock result.
Now it seems a line is finally being drawn in the sand and the Brexit 'phoney war' may be coming to an end.
It is probably no coincidence that the remaining 27 EU member Governments have decided to get tough with Theresa May's increasingly inept administration in the wake of the Catalonian independence crisis that has engulfed Spain in recent weeks.
To say Brexit took Europe by surprise would be an enormous understatement but the vote was as much of a shock to the UK establishment, including many prominent 'Leave' supporters.
For 16 months May's Government and her vastly experienced civil service have been running around like headless chickens as they attempt, in vain, to come up with a plan for Brexit.
Their efforts haven't been helped by the grotesque political pantomime being played out by the Conservative party whose members seem more concerned with who will occupy Number 10 rather than the economic cliff the UK is about to go over.
By contrast, the remaining 27 EU Governments - many of them annoyed by the arrogant imperial attitudes of some prominent Brexit supporters - have used the last year and half well.
While the UK's negotiators still don't appear to have any idea how Brexit can be achieved, the EU governments have used the time to develop and adopt a strong, unified policy.
For her part, Teresa May - who looks more and more like a lame duck Prime Minister with every passing day - seems to have realised that the disarray in her Government has presented the EU with a major advantage.
In her disastrous 2017 General Election campaign Teresa May constantly referred to her Government as 'strong and stable'.
Ironically, that's the very mantra May and the Tories' Brexit adversaries seem to have adopted for the EU.
In that context it is reassuring to see Leo Varadkar adopting the EU's tough stance with his comments on the need for major trade UK concessions if a 'hard Brexit' is to be avoided.
The border issue makes Brexit a far more complex issue for Ireland but for too long the Government in the Republic has adopted a 'softly, softly' approach to the issue.
Any return to a hard border would be a disaster for Ireland north and south but it is something that we must be prepared for.
If it is to be avoided the EU has to make the UK face reality and make concessions. The only way to do that is for the EU 27 to present a unified front. We must be a key part of that combined effort.
The border issue gives the Republic a potentially influential position in the Brexit talks and we must take advantage of that.
The phoney war is over. It's time to pick a side and stick to it.