A Britexit and Northern Ireland… July 15, 2014Posted by WorldbyStorm in British Politics, Irish Politics, Northern Ireland, Uncategorized.
Thoughtful piece in the SBP the week before last (that Croke Park thing has pushed a lot aside this last week or so) by Jim Fitzpatrick on the dangers to the current dispensation on the island by the shape-throwing in Britain over the European Union and an exit by them from it. Fitzpatrick notes that in some respects the border hardly exists, but he worries that in the event of such an exit it might reappear. Let’s not get too starry eyed, the border remains, the island consists of different political entities – but it is true that in certain respects it is invisible. Fitzpatrick suggests that:
…as Britain heads for the door, is it really likely that Europe will suddenly put in place the kind of free trade deal with no strings that the eurosceptics dream of? Hardly.
So, prepare to see customs posts back on the border. Prepare to see north-south trade become a whole lot trickier. Prepare for restrictions on freedom of movement and working.
I’m not certain that any such exit would necessitate those sort of measures. One of the most obvious differences north and south is that different currencies circulate, but the prevalence of Euro, or rather the acceptance of it, in the North is striking (by the way John A Murphy, that self-appointed scourge of SF and most unlikely policeman of nomenclature had a strange article last week in the Irish Times, did he not?). And the institutions established under the GFA (such as they are, and note the messing around by Unionists in regard to them this last month or so) will continue to exist. So, while I suppose it is possible the EU might play a sort of cosmetic (and not entirely innocuous) hardball, more local interests in Dublin and Belfast, and indeed London, would prevail. And he acknowledges same:
At least the Anglo-Irish apparatus and warm relations between the two countries provides the basis for bilateral deals that may go some way towards mitigating the economic damage. But the culture shock that will accompany this greater wedge being driven between north and south will spell trouble for the wider political process.
That said, that last might be correct. A Britain on the outside of the EU would be in a distinctly different position and the knock-on effects within that polity might be problematic – and all this before we consider what Scottish independence might bring to the feast (and by the way, I don’t know, but has continued EU membership been linked in any way to that issue, perhaps as a means of assisting the NO camp?). Fitzpatrick, interestingly, argues that a YES vote would…
…probably [be] the one thing that would kill any move towards EU exit by the diminished UK. In the midst of its own existential crisis, the United Kingdom of England, Wales and Northern Ireland would be less inclined to walk a lonely road.
Hard to disagree.
I also wonder how Britain would adapt to being outside the EU. It’s one thing to rail against it, quite another to wind up in a sort of EFTA position, at best. And while we’re all aware of the problems of globalisation, they cut many ways, not least in locking nation-states together. Slicing through the EU links could be mightily injurious to certain British interests.
Just on the topic of the campaign for Scottish independence (of sorts), Fitzpatrick has a most interesting snippet in his most recent SBP article, a piece on the 12th in NI, when he notes that:
Ulster unionism appears strangely at odds with the very concept of Britishness, as understood and practised by most people in Britain. Despite unconvincing talk in the past of attracting Catholic voters, unionist leaders have now made it clear that achieving a Protestant march past a Catholic area is the zenith of their ambition, and that they are prepared to destroy all else in pursuit of this goal.
And most notably…
No wonder that Scottish unionists have begged the Orange Order to stay out of the debate on Scottish independence.