Can’t let this more serious comment from Newton go past without comment, not least in the wake Taoiseach Varadkar’s aggressive positioning on Sky News yesterday…
Is there some way Northern Ireland could become a link between the EU and the UK, as Hong Kong in particular has been between China and the rest of the world?
The short answer is no, but the reasons are worth exploring.
Hong Kong’s status as a bridge has always been overstated – China was essentially a closed country for the first 30 years after the second World War, forcing Hong Kong to develop as a manufacturing powerhouse in its own right.
That phase of Northern Ireland’s history is behind it.
When China began opening up from the early 1980s, Hong Kong did function as a bridge but only because Beijing chose it for this purpose, establishing a special economic zone on its side of the border and expanding a small fishing village into an industrial city of 10 million people.
Does even Leo Varadkar have such ambitions for Dundalk?
Again, I suspect the answer is no to that last one too. But lay aside the questions of scale, Ireland’s vulnerabilities to Brexit are huge. It may need such ideas to lay in against the coming economic winter and the economic winter after that.
The Taoiseach may be right not to trust a British government – effectively captured by its own Brexiteer right (and a DUP which is playing a pivotal role in its delivery) – that will not seek to do him or Ireland any favours in negotiations.
He’d be wise to consider getting in some decent economic prophylactic measures the country will almost certainly need to live with a still rich neighbour newly intent on an extensive programme of global bed-hopping.
Sharing pieties about a Peace Process™ in notably better shape than Northern Ireland’s political life could prove a dangerous a costly distraction from where the real danger is.