Brexit: Little Northern Ireland can only brace itself, whilst the grown-ups decide

I was asked earlier by a French journalist if I thought Brexit was playing in the upcoming election. Not much I said, or at least in the overt campaigning, which is largely about who wins and who loses.

I expect it is playing well enough on the doorsteps for the DUP (who alone of all the NI parties went with it). SF’s agitprop approach of scaring the bejesus out of their base will work for them too.

Though they weren’t very keen on Leo Veradkar muscling in on their territory by making positive suggestions for seeking community consent to make Brexit less traumatic.

And that’s about the height of the seriousness of the Brexit debate in Northern Ireland. Most of the politically serious moves seem to be taking place outside the northern jurisdiction.

As Brian has noted, there’s much business to take care of before little Northern Ireland will hove into view in the negotiations.

Although NI has a strategic importance in terms of the public diplomacy around Brexit, the real deal is its effect on the southern economy and the inevitable divergence of focus between north and south

Brigid Laffin (late of UCD, now in Florence) outlines a couple knotty problems likely to arise with the departure of Ireland’s Anglo Model twin…

A Macron presidency is very good news for the EU, but will challenge Ireland in terms of its domestic policy mix. In particular, it will bring renewed attention to the Republic’s corporate tax rate.

The State has successfully defended the 12.5 per cent corporate tax rate, even though there were compelling domestic reasons to ask businesses to shoulder more of the burden of the adjustment during the recent recession.

What is impossible for the State to defend is the evidence that, due to additional tax breaks, large and extremely wealthy multinational companies based here pay virtually no tax at all.

There is a simmering public debate on corporate tax in the Republic which needs to be intensified so that the State has a tax code that is not seen as undermining other countries. The outcome of the Apple case will be a critical moment in this regard.

Moreover, a second sacred cow needs attention and that is the Republic’s policy of military neutrality. Irish policy in this regard was always conditioned by the safety of its geographical location.

However, the return of hard geopolitics in a world of Putin and Trump challenges European security and means that the State’s neutrality deserves sustained scrutiny.

The so-called triple lock which binds the State into a UN resolution before committing to the deployment of Irish troops does not do justice to the Irish Republic.

The consent of the Oireachtas should be sufficient for such a move, and the Republic should take full part in the further development of the EU’s security capacity.

But before we get there we could be in for a bit of a bumpy ride. Wolfgang Munchau fears that the media and politicians within EU countries have yet to take the UK’s determination seriously.

The biggest category of risk in the forthcoming Brexit negotiations is political miscalculation – but not of the variety you would think. Yes, it is always possible, indeed probable, that a bombastic UK politician fails to understand the intricacies of EU politics. Far more likely and more dangerous is the possibility that the EU misjudges British politics.

There are plenty of examples where this has already happened. David Cameron was given a raw deal last year when the European Council ignored the former prime minister’s warnings about Brexit.


If EU negotiators believe that Brexit may not happen, why offer the UK a good deal? They may even think that a lousy deal could become a self-fulfilling prophesy. They might think that the harder they negotiate, the bigger they can make the Brexit bill and the greater the chances of the UK not leaving.

In any case, little Northern Ireland can only brace itself whilst it returns to the integrity of its historic quarrels, whilst the grown-ups decide what happens next:

European industry can cope with a hard Brexit, but not a sudden one. The EU will also find that a large percentage of financial contracts will all of a sudden no longer be subject to EU law – hardly something that is conducive to financial stability in the eurozone.

It is only once the EU begins to calculate the costs of a sudden Brexit that these negotiations will start in earnest.

Maybe when it completes, and the current short-term opportunism inevitably runs into sand perhaps Republicans and Nationalists will start to figure out how the unification project can be put together?

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty