As one who supports the idea of democracy I have often found myself at the wrong side of the democratic vote and had to “suck it up,” as the modern terminology would have it. The second Lisbon Treaty was an example of this. Mind you, making us vote twice undermined democracy completely, but I digress.
The UK voted democratically to leave the EU and as such I wish them well in their decision. I would like to see the UK prosper after the event and would also like to see the EU prosper in their absence. I do not believe that one entity must be harmed for the other to get ahead. It is not us against them. We can be good neighbors without the feigned angst.
Interestingly, we citizens of Ireland have not been asked whether we want to stay in the EU after BREXIT. I’m not saying we would vote in droves to get out but I do reckon that those in power are still recovering from out initial rejection of ‘Lisbon’ and are not taking any chances with an ungrateful electorate. So first Enda and now Leo are cosying up to their betters in Brussels and kissing ass any chance they get. We are back to being the model Europeans our leaders want us to be, or at least on paper we are.
But BREXIT has more far reaching implications for little Ireland than any other EU country. What is leaving the Union for us is our biggest trading partner, the only other english speaking member and now we become the only EU land border to the UK after their exit. That is called having mayor skin in the game and a damned powerful vested interest for us in seeing a soft BREXIT rather than a big bang.
Therefore I am astonished this afternoon to read that our new leader, Leo Varadkar, said that, “The Irish Government is “not going to design a border for the Brexiteers” Forgive me, but is the term brexiteer some kind of derogatory reference for those who exercised their democratic right to make a choice in a UK referendum? Is a brexiteer to be seen as some sort of horrible animal who must be shunned by all decent people? And what is this shit about an Irish Government ‘designing a border’ between the UK and Ireland?
Well, apparently Leo has firstly decided to do his negotiating with the UK using megaphone diplomacy. The traditional approach of letting teams of civil servants from both sides tease out in detail, multiple options suitable to both parties has been forgone in favour of this maggot’s need for brownie points with the EU. It is reminiscent of Maggie’s “Out, out, out,” speech all those years ago and about as helpful. Instead, our Leo suggested drawing a line in the Irish Sea and calling that the border. Like the imaginary international date line then, there will be a spot in the water somewhere that you leave Ireland and enter the UK. Oh my goodness!
Now, for those who don’t know, we Irish voted for the Good Friday Agreement, (Belfast Agreement), which ended the armed conflict in Northern Ireland. In that agreement we pledged to respect the wishes and culture of the Unionist/Loyalist peoples of the North and on balance, so we should. However, the Irish Sea runs between all of the UK and all of Ireland, including the North. So Leo is effectively saying that the authorities in the North, a part of BREXIT UK, must patrol their UK sovereign area as if it were part of the Irish Republic. Predictably enough, it has outraged Unionist Ulster. As stated by Leo, the UK must have an international border between one part of the UK and another. Maybe that is not what he meant but it is the natural conclusion that could be made in some quarters.
The DUP’s leader in the Commons, Nigel Dodds, said the party could not tolerate such a move, adding that the Prime Minister had “already reiterated this”. Then, Theresa May’s Democratic Unionist Party allies have dismissed any suggestion the Irish Sea can effectively become the border with the UK after Brexit. And Mr Dodds added that such a move would be unacceptable to the DUP, which the British Prime Minister relies on to prop up her minority administration in the House of Commons. Reasonably he also said, “The DUP will not tolerate a border on the Irish Sea after Brexit that makes it more difficult to live, work and travel between different parts of the United Kingdom.” Others bouncing around in outrage included Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson who demanded clarification from Dublin: “If this is their position, then it causes a major threat to the Belfast Agreement and would pull it asunder.”
As if that weren’t enough, DUP chief whip Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said: “There is no way that the DUP would go for an option that creates a border between one part of the United Kingdom and the other.” He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Dublin really needs to understand that that proposition is absurd and unconstitutional.” Then DUP MP Ian Paisley said Dublin’s position appeared to leave two alternatives – a “very hard border” or that “Ireland will wise up and leave the EU itself.” Both the DUP and the Ulster Unionists, the very ones we voted to respect in the Belfast Agreement, are singing off the same hymn sheet when they say that Leo’s outburst causes a major threat to the Belfast Agreement and ‘would pull it asunder.’
I have never cared much for political posturing in any shape or form but when it is between Fine Gael and Fianna Fail in our own Dail it usually amounts to a hill of beans. Doing it on the international stage with an agreement like the Belfast Agreement at stake is just pure lunacy. I have complained here before that the Irish Officials in Brussels appear content to let Europe negotiate on our behalf and Leo’s utterances today confirm this to me. It is a like a Brussels choreographed production with Varadker saying his lines on cue to ramp up the pressure on London. The Irish/UK border does present a knotty problem and I am not playing that down. But if it does then surely it is up to the Irish and British Governments to thrash it out with a view to a win-win for both parties. Indeed it would be for three parties because the Unionist wishes of Northern Ireland must also be catered for.
Incredibly today during a wide-ranging media briefing, Mr Varadkar said he hoped his comments would not ignite an angry response but added that “if anyone is angry it should be us”. Ah Jaysus Leo! How could it not provoke an angry response? It’s akin to thumping a guy in the chops and adding, “I mean no offense.”
So in my view at this point in time, the arguments about the future of the border must be fought firstly by the Irish against the vested interests in Europe to secure the right to negotiate it our own way. Then, and only then, should our officials sit down with their UK, (and Northern), officials and find a solution to this local problem that would suit us all. I doubt it is something that would trouble or inconvenience the other 450 million citizens of the Union anyway but it could be critical to our ongoing relationship with the UK.
So Leo, you are much smarter than this nonsense today. Start using the many means at your disposal and utilize the back-channels to drive a position where we can accommodate a proper agreement with the UK and make BREXIT softer for all of our sakes. It is called diplomacy and we have no doubt about your charm or bedside manner when it comes to one-to-one meetings of many kinds. You were elected to do this on all our behalves and you have the intellect and ability to succeed if you would only use it. And while you are at it, bury the megaphone!
And before I finish, Margaret Thatcher did not only say no, no, no, to negotiations on Ireland, there is a short video here of her in the House of Commons sending three no’s to the EU as well in her own inimitable manner. I wonder if Leo might have thought twice if he had to face that virago across the Irish Sea today. She’d chew him up for breakfast!