With a few distinguished exceptions, “official” Ireland has bought into the “spin”’. It has made the European Union the custodian of our national interests. It has ceded its responsibility for negotiations on our future relationship with our nearest neighbour and largest single-country trading partner. This makes no sense. The risks of trading the approval of “Europe” for the long-term interests of the country are enormous..
Whatever the nature of the post-Brexit governance of Europe, little consideration will be given to Ireland’s needs and its capabilities. How could they be? On all issues that matter, the centre will advance its own agenda.
Amnesia can be a terrible thing. It is only prudent to remember that in the bailout negotiations the European Central Bank (ECB) cut the ground from underneath Ireland when we were at our most vulnerable. Ajai Chopra, then IMF mission chief, recalls it was the International Monetary Fund – not Europe – that advocated against the harshness of the adjustment which the ECB attempted to impose and, also, ECB pressure to impose on Ireland losses that should have been borne by the bondholders of delinquent banks. The threats of what would happen if Ireland did not come to heel came from Europe.
Fintan O’Toole for one would agree with the last bit. So why not Irexit? Because a switch back to the punt could provoke the mother of all financial crises. And Ireland’s position as the off-shore centre for foreign investment into Europe could disappear. Those are the big fears at any rate. In value terms exports to the continental EU and beyond exceeded UK exports long ago, even though in volume and employment terms the gap is closer. Basic instincts are in play too; EU membership freed the Republic from Britain’s shadow and they’ll pay a considerable price to keep it that way. Modern European oppression is preferable to the old British variety and hopefully shorter lived. Prof Kinsella must try harder and find stronger, positive reasons for quitting.
Meanwhile over at the negotiations, reports of a shift in British strategy. Logical perhaps but just a tad desperate at this stage?
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London