Irexit – Irish Exit from the EU

Has there ever been an uglier portmanteau word? Or a frankly more , lets be plain, dumb, idea, than this? The latest of the Grey Guard to hitch a brown dwarf to the dray is Bruce Arnold, following on the lead of Kevin Myers and Gay Byrne .

Those that support Irexit seem, on reading, to be one of two types. Older, middle class men of a conservative mein or older middle class men of a hard left Trot inspired mein.  One is reactionary in search of a non existent past the other a Leninist seeking chaos to energise a new world order.  The left dont matter, factional fractured and fissoning as they are. But the right may, as there is a tide.

There seems to be some sort of perception in the Grey Guard of Irexit that we are still uniquely and haplessly dependent on the UK.  They should think again.

Since 1992 especially we have grown much less dependent on the UK.  An Ireland that left the EU would perforce HAVE to take whatever trade it could get with the UK, itself liable to be exposed cruelly to the rigor of global competition as it has to take whatever trade it can get from the globe. Whatever has been written about the folly of Brexit, the same an order or more of magnitude could be said about the lunatic folly that an Irexit would see. Those that advocate such will, bluntly, be dead if and when their views came to pass, or else see autarkial North Korea as a paradisical state to emulate.

distribution of importsScreenshot 2017-03-05 18.08.14


Screenshot 2017-03-08 12.37.43


Below I try to fisk the comments of Bruce.


NO document presented to the Irish people in respect of our membership of the EU has greater current importance than Brexit: UK-Ireland Relations.

Apart that is from the treaties themselves which define the how and what of the EU and the manner of leaving thereof

It originated with the British House of Lords, a committee of which published it, rather eccentrically, in Dublin on December 12 last year,

Who on earth cares where it was published?

obviously aimed at a well-informed Irish audience. It put three issues before Irish readers: the urgent need for a bilateral deal between the two countries; the maintenance of a Common Travel Area within these islands; the finding of a solution to the continued existence of a border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, a situation that could become a barrier to progress between Britain and the Republic.

As an Englishman who has worked in Irish journalism, and at the heart of Irish political affairs in Dublin for the past half-century, I greet the document with great relief and total endorsement. However, I have many misgivings about how it will turn out.

The weight of British purpose is well thought out and logical, fitting in with the decision already made to break off EU membership.

So, having decided to set themselves on fire, and run off a cliff holding an anchor, the document notes the burny feeling, opines on gravity, and reminds us of the nature of falling bodies.

Irish purpose, however, reflects uncertainty over what to do, and a wish to have it both ways. In short, there is a failure of leadership.

Hang on. Wanting to have it both ways, cake and eat it, is a direct play from the Clown Prince of Brexit, Bo of Jo. Its in fact a genius step to try to hoist him with his own petard. Pity that he will deny any such petard, is too flabby and damp to be hoist and so on but..

The document has been widely misunderstood in Irish policy-making circles. As is often the case, when faced with a direct and indisputable truth, Irish political leaders take action – if they do – when it can no longer be ducked.

Yes. We have a lot of experience in that. But there is a great value in retaining the option to wait.

The manner in which the Irish Government, State and people worked their way out of the disaster of 2008 was eventually managed with Europe’s help, but the price we paid was heavy. The lack of leadership, the low levels of control and the bringing in of EU watchdogs should never have happened. It would never have happened if Ireland had stayed out of the euro as the UK did. The decisions made by the Irish Government in the years leading up to the crash of 2008 could be described as giving policy-making a bad name.

I mean, its not like we EVER had a crisis before the Euro. We never for example had a recession in the 1980s as bad as that of the 1930′s ; we never managed a massive land bubble in the 1970s; we never managed to run the economy into the dust in the 1950s, and so on. No it was all the fault of those nasty foreigners MAKING us take their filthy money and FORCING us to buy houses from ourself. Damn their foreign hides

The Irish Government is giving every impression of making a mistake of a similar magnitude in how it proposes to deal with Brexit. The House of Lords Report on the consequences of Brexit for UK/ Irish relations, which was published in Dublin, is, I understand, the first such British Parliamentary White Paper ever to have been published outside the United Kingdom.

Is it just me or is there a slight sense of “look, begob, we’re so important the Brits are even publishing stuff here. Now for ya”

Nevertheless, the anchor man on RTE’s 6pm news the day it was published suggested to one of the peers who prepared the report that it was directed at the British Government.

I have looked at the report clip. Its here. Bryan Dobson didn’t interview Michael Jay. Jay speaks from 0:46 in the clip, and was speaking to Diane Connor. So, maybe I missed that byplay between Lord Jay and Bryan Dobson but….

Why would the House of Lords publish a report in Dublin directed at the British Government? Brexit: UK-Ireland Relations was not so aimed. For all the attention it got here, however, it might as well have been. To say that the Irish establishment, at the time this document landed among them, was running away from the truth as far as the EU was concerned is something of an understatement. They have been doing so for years but are now running out of time and road.

The document’s fundamental purpose was to focus the minds of our political leaders, and of the Irish Government, on two key national problems: the land border with Northern Ireland and the Common Travel Area (CTA) within these islands as a whole. And it did just that.

This is at best a partial reading and at worst a misreading. The report is  some 75 pages long. The summary states as below its aims and purpose. I have numbered them. All five elements. Interestingly Bruce doesnt note or notice the very first one they comment on , Economics, which takes up 13 out of the 50 “analytical” pages.

In this report, we therefore draw attention to:

(1) the serious economic implications of Brexit for Ireland, North and South;

(2) the consequences for the Irish land border of potential restrictions to the free movement of goods and people;

(3) the implications for the Common Travel Area (CTA) and for the special status of UK and Irish citizens in each other’s countries, including the right of people born in Northern Ireland to Irish (and therefore EU) citizenship;

(4) the potential impact on political stability in Northern Ireland;

(5) and the challenge to the institutional structure for North-South cooperation on the island of Ireland, and East-West relations between the UK and Ireland, established under the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement.

The CTA is important for the British Government and people, but it is vital for their Irish counterparts. This is the principal reason why the House of Lords took the extraordinary step of publishing its report in Dublin. And we should be grateful for that, and for the main message: that there has to be a bilateral deal between the UK and Ireland to protect the interests of both States, but particularly Ireland, following Brexit.

It cannot be something imposed by, or agreed with, the other 26 member states of the EU. In a rather scatter-brained way, wringing its hands for pity’s sake and for help, the Irish Government is going round Europe trying to drum up support for a complicated ‘Ireland Only’ arrangement.

The aim of this, ludicrous in its impossibility, is to keep us within the 27 remaining countries while at the same time allowing for the bilateral deal – an act of faith in Britain – with the vital trading implications. Within this conundrum are the far deeper ties between Britain and Ireland that will inevitably focus on the land border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Ian Paisley Jnr grasped this nettle firmly and unequivocally in the Brexit debate in the House of Commons. Needless to say, Sinn Fein ran away from this challenge and it is still running. They cannot face the emotional slap in the face represented by a bi-lateral deal. Sinn Fein has, until recently, always opposed the surrender of Irish sovereignty to the EU. Now, at the very moment Brexit has provided an opportunity to restore that sovereignty by following the UK out of the EU, Sinn Fein has joined the political parties in the Republic that have sold their souls to the EU and for whom there is no way back. Irexit is a decision that would, moreover, hasten the re-unification of Ireland that the IRA’s campaign has otherwise been put back by generations.

See, this irritates me. There is a deep, and for someone of Bruce’s experience, inexcusable confusion here – that the Common Travel Area is somehow the total of “cross border” activity. The CTA is perhaps the least significant element of the “vital trading relations”. We have vital relations with countries with whom we DONT have a CTA. So it cannot be the sole and totemic element.  Indeed, in the very next paragraph Bruce notes this. The mask slips in the last paragraph where he talks of “selling their souls to the EU”.  This is quite extraordinary.

The more positive side of this debate is not altogether clear. David Davis, the Secretary of State for Britain Exiting the EU, claims that London, Belfast and Dublin want the open border maintained. However, the UK leaving the Customs Union will not support that wish. In that regard, John Bruton, a former Taoiseach, told the House of Lords Inquiry that the Republic would have to fulfill its EU obligations.

A set of statements of fact.

The issue should be hotly debated in the Northern Ireland elections. As one friend put it to me, “Britain and Ireland are separate, Ireland is not part of Britain, Britain is not part of Ireland. Yet in practical terms there is very little between the two: it seems a very sensible arrangement.” He added: “Last year witnessed year-long celebrations of the 1916 Rising here at home, while at the same time the Irish Government found itself going around European capitals begging for the right of people to be able to travel from Donegal to Derry without a passport.”

Hang on, the CTA is something you liked three paragraphs ago?

As an Englishman permanently part of Irish journalism and comment, I found it hard to understand how citizens wishing to commemorate 1916 for the right reasons (not guns and glory but political freedom) were unable to see that EU membership has almost brought us back to where we were in 1916.

So : we are under threat of conscription, facing massive trade disruption from a war, under emergency legislation, with laws prorogued, and the center of the capital in ruins? I missed that

I confess there were times when I thought that the 1916 commemorations were in fact a cynical attempt by the Irish State to disguise the betrayal of sovereignty by Ireland since 1972. And I had lived through, and written about, all the occasions of that series of betrayals.

The House of Lords members brought to Ireland the elegant and detailed explanation of how the history of our more recent past has become a guidebook for our futures in unpicking the loose and questionable commitments to the EU. That explanation currently binds us in unwelcome fetters. We need to see and understand that and take action on it.

Loose? And how can an explanation bind us in fetters? Maybe that which it is explaining can…

Brexit: UK-Ireland Relations is the first paper of its kind.

No, Bruce, its not. Its not even the twenty first. Its the first YOU noticed. The ESRI has done sterling work on this issue for years.

Perhaps it is also the most important for all of us on these islands who are concerned about what Irish people see as the damage and upheaval to the lives of ordinary people in the UK and Ireland in their interaction with each other arising out of Britain’s decision to leave the EU.

Nobody is making the English, for it is the english who are doing it, leave. They have determined to do so. The best thing we can do is keep pointing out the folly and danger.

The hardening nature of how that might work, and how it will affect Irish men and women north and south of our border, is ameliorated by the care with which the White Paper tells us of the special status of UK and Irish citizens in each other’s countries, the free movement between Britain and Ireland, and the magnitude and diversity of trade between the two countries.

Though we are so different, nevertheless Irishness is part of Britishness, Britishness part of Irishness, as I see it. Our much larger neighbour – also our friend and ally – has determined on a new course and we are faced with an important choice about how we respond to this highly significant development in Irish, British and European history. A bilateral deal between the UK and Ireland presented to the other 26 Member States as the price of Ireland remaining in the EU is the only rational way Ireland can protect its vital relationship with the UK and, if we so wish, remain in the European Union.

I wouldnt play that poker game. I would imagine a large sigh of relief in Europe if we were to bluff ourselves out.

What the British are asking of us is a simple acknowledgement of the entire package of relations between Britain and Ireland, between North and South on the island of Ireland, and between East and West in the framework created by the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement.

Err. Again, Bruce, they are the ones who are leaving. Not us.

2 thoughts on “Irexit – Irish Exit from the EU

  1. Pingback: The UK is our biggest trading partner – discuss | Brian M. Lucey

  2. Pingback: A-fisking we shall go – Ray Kinsella Edition | Brian M. Lucey

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