Europe, Britain and Ireland. July 12, 2012Posted by WorldbyStorm in British Politics, European Politics, Irish Politics.
Gavin Barrett of the School of Law in UCD had a piece in the Irish Times on Monday on the British stance to the EU. And it makes for interesting reading. Not least his assertion that:
Irish negotiators – supported by the European Central Bank – could justifiably claim that with direct recapitalisation of Spanish banks now being facilitated, it would be entirely inequitable to treat any differently a state with similar problems that had behaved impeccably throughout the sovereign debt crisis.
This summit outcome also implicitly vindicated the Yes vote on the fiscal treaty. Had the Irish electorate opted for the reckless confrontationalism promoted by Sinn Féin and Declan Ganley during the referendum campaign, this deal would never have happened.
As to the first it is unclear what, if anything, will derive from that, so this may be yet more unwarranted optimism. As to the second, that remains highly contestable. The deal wasn’t about Ireland, it was about Spain and Ireland is – at best – an afterthought. The deal, and again we simply cannot tell what its actual as distinct from rhetorical implications are for this state (and well worth noting that already there is talk in the Guardian that yet another meeting is going to be necessary before the end of the month to patch up what ‘deal’ there is already).
But most interesting were the conclusions he drew from an UK that was growing increasingly detached from the EU. This latter dynamic is important. And to a degree unknowable as to where it will end. It is true that the present Conservative led government is remarkably, some would say bizarrely, sanguine about the very notion of withdrawal from the EU. Whether this too is rhetorical remains open to question. That the Liberal Democrats – on paper, at least, the most europhiliac formation in national British politics, share power with them would one would imagine provide something of a block to any centrifugal tendencies. But it may be that the LDs day has come and gone. And it is difficult to know what quid pro quo’s have been arranged for, say – Lord’s reform.
In any event, Barrett writes:
How ought this State react to the gradually increasing risk of British detachment? As regards our attitude to the UK, while our influence is clearly limited, the suggestions of Ambassador Bobby McDonagh on Monday that Ireland can (a) offer some reassurance to Britain about membership of the union; and (b) should argue for maximum British EU involvement, clearly have merit.
There are at least five reasons for this. First, the Republic has a stake in an optimally-functioning union – and an EU that includes the UK is a more economically and politically powerful one than one without it.
Second, the Republic shares many policy objectives with the UK and thus benefits from shared union membership. Third, safeguarding the Republic’s major trade relationship with the UK is obviously important. Fourth, economic links with the UK make a long-term weakening of its economy that might follow any union exit undesirable. Finally, there is some danger that Irish popular support for integration might be affected by the turbulence of a UK exit. British newspapers and television have, after all, considerable influence in this State.
What’s fascinating is that Barrett doesn’t explicitly mention one other reason why, whatever one’s views of the EU, the Republic has an over-riding concern as regards these matters. And that is socio-political given the history of this island, the dispensation in the early part of the last century, the conflict that – in part – developed out of that dispensation, the resolution of that conflict and so on. The situation of the North, and indeed North/South, East/West links makes our position sui generis in the context of the EU (or almost). An United Kingdom outside the EU is problematic, to put it at its mildest, in terms of the further development of such links. I don’t want to overstate this, life would go on, the institutions would survive. But…an UK detached from the EU is an UK on a very unpredictable path (and one, which has its own centrifugal forces at work).
I’d be very interested in others views on this and how an UK departure from the EU might affect matters (as well as what people think of the likelihood of such a departure).