Brexit panic is overdone, but London has still to take in the implications for the Union

Here at last is a cogent view of the case I’ve been arguing about  Brexit – with a touch of optimism added – from economist Graham Gudgin, a former adviser to David Trimble.

Extreme negative predictions about the impact of Brexit stem from false beliefs about the importance of the EU in both economic progress in Ireland and political progress in Northern Ireland…

Contrary to what we are continually told, EU membership does not seem to have had a noticeably beneficial impact on Ireland’s economic growth, even if this seemed to be the case during the great construction boom occasioned by overly low interest rates inside the euro zone.

Nor is it a sustainable argument that common EU membership was essential to the Good Friday agreement, as many began claiming during the referendum. The big external player in the peace process was the United States, even if the EU context did help nationalists in the North feel closer to the Republic.

The lesson is not that Ireland should back the EU against the UK. On the contrary, Ireland should ally with Germany and the Netherlands in arguing for continued free trade between the UK and the EU. This would greatly ease any pressures for Border controls in Ireland.


The threat of a  hard border between Scotland and England is also exaggerated according to academic discussion referenced by Iain McWhirter in the Herald. The argument is  joined over whether this favours  independence over  the development of UK federalism in the  end, or deters it.

… An independent Scotland will ultimately need its own currency or to join the euro, but the early years could be much smoother without threats of financial scorched earth from an aggrieved UK Treasury.

Nor need there be any “hard border”, as some academics were claiming only last week at a conference organised by the Centre for Constitutional Change. If there is to be a hard border with Europe, then I suspect Westminster would be much less keen on a hard border with Scotland. The precedent for an open border already exists with Northern Ireland, where there is free movement with the Republic. If the rUK went ahead and placed border guards at Gretna Green after indyref2, it would be the most extraordinary lapse of goodwill and irresponsible provocation. We all know why there is no hard border in Ireland and no-one surely wants that kind of trouble here.

SNP veteran Alex Neil has no doubts. The devolution of EU powers  direct to Holyrood suggested here as a potential strategy for saving the Union  favours independence in the long run.

Don’t wait for Whitehall. Set the agenda now. Force the UK Cabinet to acknowledge Scotland’s priorities. Preempt any attempt by the UK Government to place unacceptable limitations on Scotland’s Brexit ambitions…

The second item on Scotland’s List of Demands should be the transfer of all the funding associated with these new powers..

he accumulation of all these new powers and finances would bring about “neo-Independence” for Scotland, creating the ideal platform for advancing to full sovereignty for the Scottish people in the early 2020’s.

Meanwhile the debate in London is  currently being presented as a binary choice between  Hard or Soft Brexit? without giving a thought  yet to the implications for the future of  the UK, like this update from Anne McElvoy in the Guardian.

Political anoraks will be gleeful about the outburst of recrimination between the defeated Cameroons and the “lily -livered” and  calculating fence sitter Theresa May.  While these squabbles emphasises the  completeness of her victory, they also expose the continuing lack of clarity about  what Brexit means Brexit actually means and  the threat of  Brexit wars to come within the Conservative party.

  • Oriel27

    If they put hard borders across Ireland again, i think they will be quickly removed again by the people. Its ridiculous to think borders will come back without that risk being realized. Brexit will prove to be a disaster for peace in Ireland – Its a concept that could work in England (or the island of Great Britain), but it will simply not work in Ireland.

  • the rich get richer

    We ain’t aving it guvnor………………..

  • Kevin Breslin

    So the economist (not really an economist but business academic) who backs Trimble, seems to back David Trimble’s political positions on this matter

    Let’s just take this analysis logically, he says that outside the EU the Republic of Ireland economy would’ve grown anyway and perhaps grown better…that hasn’t been proven. Then think of how fantastic its political growth has been without being in the UK all that time.

    But let’s look at how optimistic the report actually is, shall we …

    Paragraph 1&2 – Narrative interpretation of the attitudes in ROI, so far no optimism
    Paragraph 3 – Conceding concerns exists, so far no optimism
    Paragraph 4&5 – More narrative interpretation of attitudes in ROI, so far no optimism
    Paragraph 6&7 – Pessimism about the European Union, Optimism about low tax.
    Paragraph 8 – Optimism about the United States being the savior of Northern Ireland, ignoring European Union contributions outside the nationalist community.

    Paragraph 9 – Hopeful optimism about the Republic of Ireland doing more the United Kingdom in the European Union, than the United Kingdom ever did for itself.

    Paragraph 10 – Panicking about customs borders (as he should). Mentioning new electronic infrastructure is needed to mitigate damage of Brexit.

    Paragraph 11 – Being pessimistic about pessimists, also effectively arguing that migration can be controlled simply using the NI system that the UK uses anyway.
    The complaints about migration were in the first place brought by pessimists who felt that system was not robust, and it’s simple demand/supply here.

    Paragraph 12 – Catharsis about the need for unionists to accept perhaps a Ireland-Great Britain travel border. That’s optimistic.

    My analysis of his analysis: I get 4 counts of optimism.

    Don’t Worry, Low Profit Taxation will save us.
    Don’t Worry, America will save us,
    Don’t Worry, The Republic of Ireland will save us in the European Union.
    Don’t Worry, We’ll come together on this island to save GB from migrants with an Irish Sea border.

    I could be optimistic about all four of these, it will still not stop concerns about what little opportunities that Brexit offers Northern Ireland.

    If you want to be an evangelist for a cause then show me a wonder.

    Perhaps this may be a case of what Friedrich August von Hayek describes as:
    “Intellects whose desires have outstripped their understanding.”

  • Nevin
  • hgreen

    Can someone let the author know that we haven’t left yet.

  • cu chulainn

    How many articles have now been posted that “Brexit panic is overdone”, all without the least shred of evidence as to what the British are going to do. All this talk of the Common travel Area is distraction, this danger is customs nonsense that will fracture supply chains and make business impossible.

    Apparently we are to have drones

    Nationalists parties cannot stay in government if there is increased harassment of people in border areas.

    it also seems that Gudgeon’s economic statistics for growth in the ROI are suspect

  • Oriel27

    Drones, such nonsense. And do they honestly think they will be safe in the sky? I would love to see one one of them on my local road.

  • cu chulainn

    An important question is what they will do. If the border is “open”, as Brokenshire has promised in his letter to the FT, then what exactly are they observing? If it is “open” then people come and go and no need to observe them.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Totally agree, once you ask people who openly support Brexit how to enforce the cross border customs divergence outside the European Union without returning to the customs inconveniences of the past, we get more hand waves to the practical issues than the Royal Family does in a year.

  • Oriel27

    On a serious note, If these things fly over your private property, has one a right to take them down? – remember road width in many parts is only about 3m’s. – i know my road is that width. There could definitely be issues of trespassing etc. What about privacy?
    what is the law regarding flying drones over private property?

    A legally held .22 rifle could take down a drone very easily.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I assume they are military type drones, as opposed to Amazon type drones, though given the intelligence and apathy displayed by some to the customs issue, the idea of

    There are 2 points to this…

    1. No, they are not safe or secure from resourceful people.

    2. If the UK government took this issue serious that it required drones, then in a nutshell why has it been so lassiez-faire to I dunno Cross border Fuel Smuggling and Environmental waste issues all these years and not deploy the drones there?

  • John Collins

    Mr Gudgin said. in this article, that the ROI economy grew by 3% on average every year for the thirty years prior to its entry into the EEC and has only risen on average by 2.5% every year since. Whatever about the second figure, I sure find it hard to believe the first one.

  • hgreen

    You’d almost think they were pulling Brexit plans out of their arse.

  • cu chulainn

    There is a lot to be said for reinserting Brexit up into that orifice.

  • Brian Walker

    The question is not whether you agree with Gudgin’s economic analysis. It’s whether we default to crisis without attempting an analysis for ourselves. In a way crisis is quite comforting We aren’t responsible for it therefore we stick with blaming others for it and we’re quite helpless. Just what we were used to for years. Back to the old days. Great.

  • SDLP supporter

    Mike Nesbitt got it about right when he said that the UUP went on a fact-finding visit to Brussels to find out the facts about Brexit and they found out that there were no facts.
    I frankly don’t rate Graham Gudgin as an economic seer and I consider him to be a paleo-unionist hardliner. His old boss, David Trimble, was hinting a while back that in his view the Republic would rejoin the United Kingdom: some chance.
    I also think that as a party Leader Mike Nesbitt is growing into his job and is more adept and street-wise than Trimble ever was.

  • Katyusha

    I dug this story up to show that someone was arrested for doing just that, but it turns out he was cleared. Common sense prevailed, thankfully.

    Okay, it’s the US. No idea what the UK law is, but if all else fails you could always use a net.

    Or even more satisfying and wonderfully old-fashioned, a hawk.

    There’s bound to be a loophole somewhere.

  • OneNI

    why would we go backwards in terms of surveillance technology?!!!!

  • Kevin Breslin

    I’d have to see his stats, but his hypothesis shows more business brash, than erodite economics.

  • Anglo-Irish

    As Zhou Enlai is reputed to have said when asked in the 1970’s ” What do you think about the impact of the French Revolution “?

    ” It is too early to say. ”

    What is becoming abundantly clear is that the majority of people heading up the Brexit campaign had no idea that they would win, and therefore had no plan in place as to what to do next.

    To say that this is a bit of a worry is an understatement.

    The future prosperity of the country is at stake and we appear to be virtually leaderless.

    The Prime Minister, whilst being careful to keep her powder dry ( bit of an operator our Teresa ) was originally for Remain.

    She is now claiming that the will of the people is paramount ( that will be a first ) and must be carried through.

    Two things here, had she come out and said ” you lot are off your head and we should have remained ” ( I paraphrase ) what would have been her chances of getting the top job?

    Secondly, how many times have any of you ever held an opinion and then changed it because you found out that others disagreed, without them providing you with solid evidence as to why you should?

    Hopefully this will all turn out well, but if it does it will be pure blind luck rather than brilliant management.

  • cu chulainn

    We are not responsible for it and the simplest cure for panic is for those who are responsible to stop.
    Stand by the GFA, stand by the peace.

  • Zig70

    The whole austerity thing became noticeable for me when the hedges on the tow path where no longer cut. Its getting bad now a real issue in Belfast’s suburbia. Then recently I was on the road to Dorsey, omg. The roads there must predate partition and austerity has been in force there many a while. Brexit was toted as a rebellion by those outside London, who didn’t feel the improvement in the economy. If Cheshire feels ignored then they should go to Dorsey to see how bad the infrastructure can be left to rot by London. The idea that England manages its estate well bears little scrutiny. The EU may not have been the saviour but it gave some hope. I don’t see when the ummeracam road would get upgraded in a post Brexit UK. Optimism? You’d have to be middle class or above to smell it over here.

  • StevieG

    I’m not sure I took that to be the question and found the Gudgin piece neither cogent nor well informed (on the facts anyway – it is an opinion piece). Discussed here – There will be tariffs, there will be a (more re-inforced) border, Ireland is in the EU, the UK will not be in the UK – beyond that…who knows – it is a fact free opininiated (sometimes hysterical) zone! Its worth analysis OK, but its hard to place any weight on an opinion piece that does make some confused and confusing statements.

  • John Papadachi

    Quite. But plenty of good reason to be concerned that the UK is not only unnecessarily damaging itself but also lying/ not caring the slightest about even worse damage it is likely to inflict on Ireland. With this in mind, Dr. Gudgin’s data-mining complacency is unhelpful. I would like to see serious consideration of feasible solutions that would mitigate the damage by keeping the border open. I can only think of one – staying in the Customs Union. Commentators tend to avoid discussing it, maybe because it doesn’t fit their preference for binary oppositions like soft-hard Brexit?

  • Oriel27

    thanks katyusha, i saw that same article on google. As Kevin said they must be military drones (what ever they look like). I couldnt imagine them using ordinary drones. im found of a shot myself, so i definitely would practice on them.

  • Oriel27

    Dorsey in armagh? – go to Middletown, Keady, Cross, Cullaville, – kips of towns – roads around them are desperate, lots of boarded up houses. Go to Caledon, once a mill town employing 700, now a kip, lots of boarded up houses. NI being in the UK is at a serious economic disadvantage.

  • Sir Rantsalot

    The procedures have already been invented. Just look at any 2 neighboring western countries. Flip sake!! ????
    This sort of thing can be looked up yourself. It’s like the anti brexit people have lost their minds and have to ask questions about everything!!

  • Sir Rantsalot

    You’re totally ignoring that the local administration decides what to spend money on. Roads could be imaculate everywhere if the stupid waste of money on tribal nonsense stopped.

  • cu chulainn

    In fairness the assembly did vote some more money for roads and there is clear evidence of more repair work this year in South Armagh.

  • George W Harvey

    Brexit is brilliant for England. We will force an English Parliament next. Northern Ireland, Scotland & Wales should seize their independence. The union has failed us all.

  • Oriel27

    I did notice what the ABC Council done anyway, they took down all the welcome signs to the villages in its area and put up new ones last year. They ensured not to replace the irish welcome signs in Middletown that were there for years. I contacted the council and i was told it wasnt policy to use irish language signs – even though it was there for years.

  • Kevin Breslin

    The procedures and the infrastructure needed to have a customs and trade border within the island Ireland were dismantled entirely.

    Norway, Turkey and Switzerland all have infrastructure and legislation built up to deal with their land borders.

    WTO terms only will mean the need for checkpoints … that’s why none of the 3 nations mentioned used them.

    Even Norway’s border with Sweden is still problematic.

    Switzerland’s (and by extension Liechtenstein) border with Austria, Germany, Italy, are still problematic

    Andorra –

    San Marino, Monaco and the Vatican have pretty much conceded sovereignty over these matters to the European Union.

    The EU Countries all have a centralized Customs Union, to which Great Britain wants to break away from, more than the United Kingdom does.

    To me that pretty much rules out every sovereign European nation before deep into Eastern Europe and the Southern Balkans e.g. Russia (including Kaliningrad), Ukraine, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Albania, Macedonia, Serbia, Belarus, Montenegro, Moldova even Northern Cyprus etc.

    Many people in Great Britain thinks it’s an island nation like Iceland, and don’t really care if Northern Ireland faces the same problems as the euro-using nation to the south of it.

    I’m fine with getting rid of partition within Ireland and separation from Britain. It’s pretty much the only reason to dismiss the customs issue.

    I think it’s rather foolhardy for unionists who want partition to work would want to see HMRC ripped off and lose money because effectively they believe in magic rather than logistics.

  • Zig70

    Yes Dorsey in Armagh. Not sure I’d use the word kip but if Brian is serious with his line ‘it will be alright, the English will see us okay’ then he should pay a visit to the areas you have mentioned and get a reality check. Now the rest of Ireland is not picture perfect. FG ignored rural Ireland but it is to their cost and they are out of government next time. Driving across the border and more times than not the pot holes disappear and newly laid roads are evident.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Not a military grade drone. Amazon type drone yes.

    I’ve made some comments below about other problems though.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Northern Ireland has not been the irresponsible one, there’s been plenty of those on the Leave side shying away from power.

    A large section of people in Northern Ireland have clearly analyzed that the UK departure from the European Union does mean additional inconvenience and border controls, some of which would be “wet” ones.