Brexit could lead to a dead end for Nationalism, not Irish Unity

Decision time is upon us, in just a few days we will have to decide whether the United Kingdom should remain a member of the European Union. In Northern Ireland, we have had a much more civil and even tempered campaign than the one we have seen across the water. Like the rest of the UK, the polls here have shown a narrowing of the gap as Unionists increase their support for Brexit and elements within Nationalism have become indifferent or secretly hope that a Brexit will cause the break up of the UK, but I want to call time on this theory.

Let’s start off with Scotland, often seen as the first domino to fall in a potential Brexit scenario, but it is worth quoting the words of the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, who points out the flaw in the logic of independence supporters backing Brexit as she said;

If Scotland votes to leave and there is a leave vote across the whole of the UK then our immediate future is Scotland in the UK, out of Europe, facing a UK government led by the likes of Boris Johnson that if it is possible to believe this would be even more right wing than that led by David Cameron and George Osborne.

That’s not the sort of situation I want to see arise, so if that’s your consideration as an independence supporter, then the only logical thing to do is to vote remain.

Why on earth would a pro-independence leader not be chomping at the bit to hold another vote? At the moment North Sea oil revenues are at rock bottom creating a huge budget deficit and the major underpinning of the case for independence has largely disappeared as a result. Why would the SNP launch a another referendum when oil prices are at rock bottom to simply pile another negotiation for independence on top of the British government’s negotiation for exiting the EU, when reports are already coming through about concerns about “referendum fatigue” within Scotland.  In short, Sturgeon will need space and time to construct a new narrative for independence before she considers a successful tilt at another referendum.

The SNP have studied the rise and fall of the Quebec Nationalist movement, who narrowly missed out on their on the second chance for independence in 1995 and have been left nowhere to go ever since.

Sturgeon’s warning to her followers is right, there is a temptation to cut corners and see Brexit as an opportunity for independence but none of this addresses the wider implications for Scotland in terms of re-applying for membership and joining the Euro. All of these issues could stop the case for independence dead in its tracks.

Now, I come back home.

I know there is a temptation out there that, voting for Brexit could lead to our own Border poll. However, any Nationalists that are voting solely on that basis need to have a re-think.

Think about our collective capacity to deliver the poll in the first place, we have just come off one of the worst collective Nationalist results in years at Assembly level. Our bloc in the chamber is smaller than it has ever been since 1998 and we have a buoyant DUP,  who make up a majority of the Executive who can just very easily say no. This is all before you convince a Secretary of State that the public demand is there for one in the first place and add into that convincing the Irish government to hold a matching vote in the South to agree to unification.

Say you get a referendum, then what? It will take years to negotiate an exit from the European Union and like a possible Scottish referendum, you will have a harder time creating a simple case for Irish unity as you will be competing for time and space on top of a Brexit negotiation and not to mention the possibility of referendum fatigue taking hold.

Then what if we lose? We are out of the EU and remaining within the UK. The worst of all worlds for a Nationalist voter.

For decades, Nationalists have used the EU as the body to show that the border is irrelevant in Ireland. That is what led leaders like John Hume to make the case forcefully for our membership of the then EEC. His vision of using the EU to bridge our differences and support key parts of infrastructure that brings us together such as the Belfast to Dublin rail service, road projects connecting North and South and bringing down of trade barriers are just some of the many things that all of Ireland being a member of the EU achieves for us. The fact is that modern Nationalism’s EU inheritance charts all the way back to Sean Lemass and right the way through to today. Why squander this on a very vague maybe?

If you want a border poll that can achieve meaningful unity, then cutting corners through a Brexit vote is not the way to do it. Brexit is in many ways for Nationalists cul de sac that could lead more barriers between North and South and the potential of the border becoming hardened in some respects.

I am not worried about a leap into the dark, I am worried about a drive right back down the time tunnel to the 1980’s.

The EU debate is complex, there are many reasons to vote for either side. But if you are seriously contemplating voting Brexit on the sole issue of a possible border poll, just be careful what you wish for as you could end up no closer to a poll and further away from Southern Ireland.

 

  • MainlandUlsterman

    me neither. i have to control myself when I get into this topic. I can’t get over the blasé approach to the country’s future health and wealth we get from the Brexit lobby.

  • Tochais Siorai

    Get with the project, MU – It’s ‘the north of Ireland’.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    you’re behind us 🙂

  • Tochais Siorai

    Nope. What actually happened was that the Irish Free State (all of Ireland) seceded from the UK through the 1921 Anglo Irish treaty and Northern Ireland subsequently seceded from the Irish Free State.

  • Jollyraj

    “The IRA were cowards and murderers…..Loyalist terrorists (were) exactly the same.”

    Not sure exactly where you are missing my evenhanded condemnation of both. Ought I write it in Irish?

  • John Collins

    Do not forget the 22 Lords Spiritual, who are all bishops of the Anglican Church, even though that Church is no longer the church with the most numbers even in England, never mind Wales, Scotland or NI. Imagine the uproar if we in the ROI suddenly decided to appoint automatically bishops of the RC persuasion to the Senate.

  • John Collins

    Do you understand the significance of the ‘if’ in a statement?

  • Tochais Siorai

    To paraphrase the immortal Con Houlihan, a man who will misuse a capital letter is capable of anything……..

  • John Collins

    JR
    I mean this as an honest question. Is there any such thing as a Unionist Historian or Political Essayist who is a revisionist of the Loyalist position in the way Southern Nationalist historians like Conor Cruise O’Brien, Eoghan Harris, Kevin Myers and Ruth Dudley Edwards, among others are of Republicanism.

  • Enda

    Of course it didn’t – it was created without the explicit will of the majority of the Irish people, which wasn’t very democratic considering Ireland was one political entity prior to the Act of Government 1920. A false majority was gerrymandered in order to create a separate state – hardly a democracy everyone can aspire to.

    However, wether democratically or undemocratically, it did come into being, and times have moved on from those days. The GFA was necessary because of partition. Of course I am for the GFA because it brought about peace (albeit an uneasy peace), but it was a necessary agreement because of partition. I don’t like elitist governments breaking up small countries.

  • Enda

    I wonder why? Home rule being Rome rule.

    Some things never change eh?

  • Enda

    Because they were given the option to seceded by the crown.

    What a wonderful democracy is Britain when a few can be given a choice without the will of the majority.

  • eireanne3

    even Mr Carwyn Jones, the welsh labour leader said there would be a major constitutional crisis ” If England pulls everyone else”

    I can envisage another constitutional storm blowing up if the UK votes out, while Westminster has a majority of IN MPs – as it has at present.
    In other words a conflict between the results of direct democracy vs representational democracy. This has never happened before in Westminster https://eurofree3.wordpress.com/2016/06/05/post-brexit-bye-bye-uk/

  • Jollyraj

    I’ve no idea – particularly since you seem to be using the term ‘revisionist’ to mean someone who doesñ’t agree with ypu, personally. You tell me.

  • Jollyraj

    Yes.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Okay I Boris Johnsoned it a bit falling for the reading of a percentage of a percentage/ rate of a rate … as people can do if they don’t double check.

    Firstly the mere 2000 a year rate that is declining highlights that not only is migration controlled, it is being significantly reduced as a net figure. Statistical models

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/6398ccee1435b287833ddf28a67b6bce29db55be036d0dcc1f389ae2f3b0b07b.png f

    http://www.nisra.gov.uk/archive/demography/population/migration/Mig1314-Bulletin.pdf

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/6effcc8778d18597fc7ca9079ec4519436d486c1cf32da434c6c93603791806e.png

    Even the high migration projection model of the UK statistics authority estimate a constant net migration figure of around 6,000 net international migration, mitigated by 1,000 people going cross border.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/0b1a135ff91f468e820eceeb4da7cd5410c06c3b97edbbb18558eb69bcfde7f5.png

  • Kevin Breslin

    Irish nationalism predates the Act of Union, so what is considered to be Unionism wasn’t really Unionism in an Ireland context before the process of the 1800 Act of Union.

  • Angry Mob

    Scotland isnt a member, the UK is.

  • Angry Mob

    So how does this in any way prove your assertion that there will be custom posts?

  • murdockp

    hmm so the others resign does that mean I have to resign too?

  • John Collins

    Basically those men and women challenged what they referred to as ‘the cannons of Irish Nationalism’, by which they meant a serious and critical appraisal of a previous portrayal of Irish Nationalism as always without blemish and always been on the right. I just wonder if they have counterparts in Unionist circles who apply a similar critique of Unionist and indeed Protestant History. The people I mention challenged their own community from within that community and that often took considerable courage. I have often profoundly disagreed with all or part of their analysis, but I would still admire them

  • Jollyraj

    In fairness, they history of Irish Nationalism has merely been a series of dead ends – though they just keep turning the caravan around and trying again, in the never-ending pursuit of the promised land (more in common with the extreme Zionists than they might like to admit).

    It’s a dead horse they’ve been flogging for centuries – in more recent decades, Shergar and the Trojan horse, and these days Irish Republicanism seems to have morphed into a rocking horse. Plenty of effort – but just not likely to go anywhere.

  • Jollyraj

    As I say, I’ve no idea.

    To be fair, traditional Irish Nationalism has been so profoundly un-self aware for such a long time that it is most fertile soil for somebody to point out that the emperors new clothes aren’t all they seem.

  • submariner

    Nail on the head.

  • NotNowJohnny

    I’m wondering what your point is here. The caveat re Turkey was clear.

  • NotNowJohnny

    I assuming this is not an attempt to provide the explanation sought.

  • NotNowJohnny

    You’re attempting to answer a question with a question which of course is not an answer at all. Two days to go and the Brexiters still can’t provide the answer to this very basic question. The Brexiters line seems to be summed up as follows …… We need to take back control of our borders …. but we won’t actually have border controls.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    so NI is recognised now but not in past decades … when did change your mind?

  • Skibo

    Hardly misapplied, an island off an island is still an island. To say any different is giving your island greater importance than mine!
    Australia is of a great enough landmass that it can be considered mainland. Britain has a landmass 22 miles off its coast of considerable size.and so the continents should be considered the mainland.
    Time to lose your applied self importance.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    It ultimately comes down to usage – and there is enough usage of ‘mainland’ by some in NI to refer to the rest of the UK for it to be one of the meanings of the word. If you choose not to use the term, as many don’t, that’s totally fine with me, but you can’t really stop other people using it – some people (and not just me) have done in the past and will probably continue to do so I would guess. No point being a King Knut with the English language – it has a habit of making fools of those who attempt to constrain it. Last time this came up I was able to dig out a use of it from the early 60s in a book about buses. Please don’t make me go there again …

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I was saying Wales on top of Scotland though. Sure, if Wales went and Scotland stayed, no big deal. I’m saying the big shift would be not when Scotland went, if it went first, but Wales going *after* it, as it would leave only NI as the non-English part of the UK. That might be a scenario where England actually says, you know what, we want a clean break ourselves.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    When there’s division between two peoples, it does seem odd to blame one of them … but look, the Serbs took a similar view to that when Yugoslavia broke up, lecturing the Croats on their shared history etc. It didn’t get them very far and frankly who was surprised? Most Croats didn’t see it that way and that being the case, the game was up for Yugoslavia. Likewise this all-Ireland state idea. The game was up in 1921, let’s face it. 1925 (Boundary Commission) at the outside.

    Ultimately it makes little sense to try and persuade people into an identity or allegiance they don’t feel and don’t want to feel. Same goes for people who don’t feel British in NI – that’s fine, it is their choice. To try and persuade them to feel British is absurd, it’s their choice entirely. Live and let live – and if people have different identities and allegiances, let them. If your worldview depends on denying others their identity, it is simply an untenable worldview. And if you’re wondering why traditional ‘united Ireland’ nationalism has got nowhere, you might look at how bound up it is with imposing its form of identity on people and denying them their own. Not only is it pointless, it is rooted in a deep ethnic chauvinism. Not a winning strategy in the 21st Century, I’d suggest.

    What of the point about Scotland not being divided in the way Ireland was and is? Are you agreeing with that or not?

  • Reader

    John Collins: Do not forget the 22 Lords Spiritual, who are all bishops of the Anglican Church…
    The “Lords Spiritual” have a specific role in managing the CoE, so of course they are all CoE bishops. There are clerics of other denominations and faiths among the “Lords Temporal” in the Lords, if that was what was worrying you. Catholic Bishops have been offered places, “but Roman Catholics who have received Holy Orders are prohibited by Canon Law from holding major offices connected with any government other than the Holy See.”

  • Reader

    What sort of revisionism are you looking for? For instance, most unionist historians or essayists are fairly clear about loyalists being a bunch of lunatic bigots and headbangers who have profoundly damaged the union. So, does condemning loyalists even count as revisionism?
    How about condemning “big house” or “cold house” unionism? Again, standard fare, so surely that wouldn’t count as revisionism either.
    There was a book by an ulster prod a few years back, I forget the name – something like “unionists, a most objectionable people” which might be as revisionist as you wish, but probably doesn’t count as the author was actually a nationalist when the book was written.

  • eamoncorbett

    Brexit or no Brexit the UK will be governed by an English government going forward , by that i mean most cabinet ministers being English , the ruling party or parties will be English . The old Soviet Union was more democratic than that even in it’s dying days the foreign minister was from Ukraine . It is this democratic deficit that will eventually challenge the future of the union . I know Gove is Scottish but he no more represents Scotland and it’s people than i do
    The UK regions should be represented at cabinet level within government , had this happened ages ago there probably would’nt have been a Scottish referendum .
    The EU referendum is another example of a split within a ruling party in one region causing nationwide havoc in other areas who have much lesser interest .
    Im pretty sure strong Scottish, Welsh and maybe NI influence at cabinet level would have prevented this current debacle .
    In a nutshell it is the way the UK is governed that most threatens it’s existence.

  • Reader

    Enda: What a wonderful democracy is Britain when a few can be given a choice without the will of the majority.
    Better in 1921 that half a million people should be on the wrong side of the border than that one million should be on the wrong side of the border.

  • Reader

    NotNowJohnny: …this very basic question.
    I keep on doing this on other threads – sorry I wasn’t clear on this one. We don’t need *hard* border controls proof against EU citizens. The ones who can cope with no schools, no NHS and no benefits are welcome in any case, they can regularise their stay if they are useful or self-sufficient. The ones who cannot cope will not bother to turn up. That is what “take back control” means – not watch towers and concrete walls and other expensive nonsense.
    As for non-EU migrants; I expect the CTA to persist. It seems to be effective. All of the migrants currently waiting at Calais would be turning up in Rosslare via Cherbourg if the CTA was full of holes.

  • Reader

    Kevin Breslin: They are going to be beaurocratbuer custom if there’s a Leave vote. All we have is wishful thinking and denial from some in Leave, but even the economists backing Leave admit as a non-EU nation they face tariffs.
    If the EU wants to collect tariffs then the EU can build the border posts. Why should the UK bother?
    So far as I can tell, the UK is in favour of free trade. There may be labourites who are in favour of tariffs on Chinese steel, but even they are queasy about 10%-15% tariffs on food imports from Africa.
    Or do you think that the EU will slap tariffs on the UK, and the UK will retaliate? OK then, here’s a plan:
    No border posts between NI and RoI, instead, intelligence led spot checks on container traffic between Dundalk and Larne. Massive fines. Try getting your container load of Greek yoghurt from Rosslare to Finchley now – is it really worth it?. Or do you fancy trying to register your one-off smuggled BMW?
    It sometimes seems that the public debate is carried out between Brexit and Remain idiots. But for each silly rhetorical problem there is a straightforward, undramatic solution.

  • Brendan Heading

    That’s a very selective presentation of the referendums there. Opposition elements clearly took advantage of apathy during the referendums to urge people to kick the government.

    I can’t imagine more than a handful of TDs are Eurosceptic.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    We have devolution though

  • John Collins

    Was it not a man who would misplace an ‘apostrophe’ that Con had the problem with?

  • John Collins

    Reader
    In all fairness do these Bishops need to be in the Upper House of a Bi- Cameral Government to ‘have a specific role in managing the CoE’. Prior to the Reformation similar posts were in existence and availed of by RC Bishops. At least in this instance, for all their faults, the RC authorities are for once on the right side of history.

  • John Collins

    Fair enough and thanks for the reply. Maybe I do not even read the Belfast Telegraph or similar publications often enough

  • John Collins

    Well going back to the time of Sean O’Casey’s Plough and the Stars at least at some level there has been a reappraisal of 1916,. For the first fifty years of independence. while many of the principal actors were still alive. it was almost inevitable that criticism of their actions would be fairly rare,

  • Tochais Siorai

    It was. That why I said ‘paraphrase’.

  • Jollyraj

    “For the first fifty years of independence. while many of the principal actors were still alive. it was almost inevitable that criticism of their actions would be fairly rare”

    What kind of freedom has been won when the people lose the right to criticize the leaders of the revolution. Sounds like Saudi Arabia, where the people live in fear of being heard criticizing the royal family, to me.

  • John Collins

    I said nothing about losing the right to criticise anybody and indeed we saw what happened a Unionist MP in NI. who tried to defend Terence O’Neill’s proposals at an Orange day event in 1967. Saudia Arabia how are you.

  • dcomplex

    Wales and England will be together forever. Why would the Welsh (Brytons) secede from their own historic lands? Even Cumberland (formerly Cumbria), for which “Cymru” is named is legally part of England. It would be like if Ireland were invaded and Meath decided to secede and call itself Munster.

    The English (Anglo-Saxons) can’t realistically be expelled from England, especially not by tiny Wales, so Welshmen will have to simply accept a situation where Wales and England are united, in order to keep access to their lands south of Hadrian’s wall.