It was a glorious time for the politicians of the Irish Republic in 2019: as the Withdrawal Agreement was negotiated, the European Union let the Irish government lead and joined them against the British to force a humiliating compromise that was tearing the House of Commons apart, and potentially tearing the United Kingdom apart.
Never before had they felt such power. It must have been a heady feeling, wielding all the collective political power of the EU27 and, to be frank, feeling special at last, even loved.
It was not to last long. Where is that power now? Where that love? Failing to reach a free-trade agreement will hurt many members of the European Union, but for the Republic of Ireland it will be a disaster. Where are those European friends now? They could have signed a sensible deal, a deal which has been on the table for months, but instead, the European Union is quite happy to condemn Ireland to economic misery for political reasons.
Last year the European states stood behind Ireland, and now we see why – better to thrust a knife in their back.
If there is bewilderment at this change, there should be none. The Europeans have been quite consistent throughout, using every trick, even corrupting Members of Parliament, to punish Britain, or force Britain into the status of a dependency, just as Bismarck did to Prussia’s neighbours, or as Britain did to the Indian princely states.
Ireland was a tool, no more. Fair Erin was wooed, charmed, seduced and send to do the job, then abandoned, beggared and left on the street. The Projet européen goes on. The Irish people are collateral damage.
How the people of the Irish state are seen in Westminster is clear enough: it is seen in the determination to make a deal that works for Ireland: most MPs have Irish blood, after all, as do I, and I feel it deeply. There is a higher principle, and that it not giving in. If they say “Give up your interests or the Paddy gets it!”: that will not win.
How the Irish people are seen in Brussels is something else. They are islanders; they speak English; they are separate from the thread of European political development; they use common law and an assumption of freedom, not the assumptions of the Roman-Napoleonic system; they deal in common sense not philosophy. Basically, the Irish are British, or cannot help but be seen as such by the Europeans. They cannot expect respect.
It is said that the Irish people are the most pro-European of all the nations of the European Union. Maybe: there is more to it though than the figure on a binary question. Actual connection is something else. To be European only as a way to avoid the relentless gravitational pull from Great Britain is a negative thing. It may be that this not-being-British is one of the few things left of general Irish cultural identity, the majority having voluntarily abandoned the Roman church, the language, cultural norms and all that went with them; gone are all the marks of difference which had been used to justify separating Ireland from Britain. If all that is left is what you are not, that is a deathly bargain.
Ireland can only suffer from remaining tied to a failing European project which bears it no respect.
- Statesmanship, a lost art
- As several doors open…
- Got Brexit Done
- Boris unleashed
- Where is the text, Boris?
- Brexit and Ireland: The Dangers, the Opportunities, and the Inside Story of the Irish Response by Tom Connelly
- Beyond Brexit by Vernon Bogdanor
- From Partition to Brexit: The Irish Government and Northern Ireland by Donnacha O Beachain
- Brexit: Its Necessity and Challenge by Tony Kosuge
- All Out War: The Full Story of How Brexit Sank Britain’s Political Class by Tim Shipman
- Brexit: Why Britain Voted to Leave the European Union by Harold D. Clarke, Matthew Goodwin and Paul Whiteley
- Britons: Forging the Nation 1707-1837 by Linda Colley
- Empire: What Ruling the World Did to the British by Jeremy Paxman
- A History of Scotland by Neil Oliver
- Brexit: How the Nobodies Beat the Somebodies by Sebastian J. Handley
- Rising Tides: Facing the Challenges of a New Era by Liam Fox
- By Boris Johnson:
- For the Record by David Cameron