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‘Nationalist hysteria’ July 6, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Always interesting to read Newton Emerson, or rather to consider the subtext of what he says. For this week he writes in the Irish Times about ‘nationalist hysteria’ over Brexit. Take it away Newton.


The aftermath of the EU referendum has not been quite so overwrought, but it is already carrying a strong sense of overreaction. Some of the totemic fears of the past few weeks are simply wrong: The European Convention on Human Rights and its court at Strasbourg have nothing to do with the EU. Young British people can continue to study abroad – that fabled Erasmus programme has been open to the whole world since 2009.

Curious. It’s a bit broader than that… take the business and financial aspects. I suppose with Sterling hitting 31 year lows against the dollar, or the FTSE 250 now ‘10% below pre-referendum levels’ and the suspension of an increasing number of property funds, some might think that overreaction isn’t exactly unreasonable. After all, this is near unprecedented. No, wait, this particular set of circumstances is unprecedented.

But panglossian is as panglossian says. For example:

Taking a calmer look at existing compromises around the edge of Europe, it is clear that the UK can get any deal it wants. It just has to agree on what that is.

Any deal it wants? Really? Wow. Tell us more:

Turkey trades freely in goods without free movement of people via the EU customs union. The six Nordic countries keep their common travel area, despite three being outside the EU. Switzerland is a global financial centre. EU scientific and academic bodies offer associate membership to non-EU countries. Greenlanders left the EU but retain EU citizenship.

Is he sure that, for example with the customs union that Britain would be happy to have to accept the following:

One of the consequences of the customs union is that the European Union negotiates as a single entity in international trade deals such as the World Trade Organisation, instead of individual member states negotiating for themselves.

Or that Nordic Passport Union, to use the technical term? Attractive indeed until one learns that the six states, three of which are indeed outside the EU, are all signed up to Schengen. Can’t see London going for that.

Switzerland? Relations are ‘framed by a series of bilateral treaties whereby the Swiss Confederation has adopted various provisions of European Union law in order to participate in the Union’s single market‘. Can’t see the Brexiteers happy to go there.

And while it is true that there are indeed associate memberships open to non-EU states, all have negative aspects in terms of input etc. But hey that’s okay. He’s decided that ‘the UK can get a uniquely good deal of its own, as that is how all these precedents were set’.

If only it were quite as simple as that.

Though he has to acknowledge that ‘regional questions’ are problematic.

How different would Brexit feel if there was no prospect of Scottish independence? The UK would still be looking at an expensive and disruptive decade of negotiating itself back to roughly where it is now, but in the grand scheme of things that is merely a nuisance.

What makes it a crisis is the threat of the UK breaking up – a threat issued solely from Edinburgh, irrespective of how much London provoked it.

But interestingly for him the bigger issue seems not to be that problem, but the response of the Irish to it. For him this is apparently ‘ambivalence’. Well the truth is that none of this is a problem of Ireland’s making, whether north or south. And it is near impossible to determine where it will end, so yes, ambivalence is the order of the day. I’d bet the state, and many others, would be much happier with the status quo ante, but that’s not a runner.

Yet he can write:

Within Northern Ireland, the Irish nationalist population feels distraught at being dragged out of the EU against its wishes and aghast at the UK’s cavalier disregard for the European context of peace. Yet in the Brexit referendum, nationalist-majority areas of the North recorded by far the lowest turnouts in the UK.

Perhaps so, but that merely indicates a broader antipathy across Nationalist and Unionist communities than some might like to acknowledge.

Frankly from there it gets worse.

Before the referendum, the European dimension of the peace process had scarcely been mentioned since the 1990s, when John Hume was crucified by Sinn Féin for referring to “post-nationalism”. The EU is cited nine times in the Belfast Agreement, but only in passing. Brussels has no formal role in any of the agreement’s institutions.

Even the all-Ireland EU funding body is not specified in the agreement’s text – and EU funding can continue by treating Northern Ireland as a border region.

But before the referendum there was nothing calling the GFA/BA into any sort of question. The states, the parties within the North, almost all were in lock step, yea, verily, even the DUP, in accepting the dispensation. And being relatively comfortable with the broader dispensation, whatever about the manner in which other issues were beginning to come to the fore. The point being that the EU links weren’t relevant, because, and I know this is tricky, both states were within the EU.  And it was, lest he forget, a Tory government that entered the first, second and many more notes of uncertainty into all this.

And while he may like to think that there’s no ‘formal role’ the truth is that the EU is the only supra-national entity in the text of the document. That’s not nothing. As to whether the UK itself would accept ‘border region’ funding…

Anyhow, he concludes:

I would not wish to downplay genuine concerns, but nationalist hysteria over Europe seems more wind than candle. For the Irish as for the British, it is, as honest partisans will concede, all about Scotland.

If the SNP fails again, the likeliest long-term outcome of Brexit for the island of Ireland is that daily life will be unaffected apart from the creation of another exaggerated grievance.

And sure, what’s one more of those?

Well… I think this goes well beyond supposed ‘exaggerated grievances’. It really does.


1. dublinstreams - July 6, 2016

has it not been a national hysteria?


WorldbyStorm - July 6, 2016

Do you think?

Liked by 1 person

2. gendjinn - July 7, 2016

What? No Ulster Covenant to remain n the EU? Surely every effort must be made, every sinew strained in furtherance of respecting the democratic will of the six counties to remain in the Union of their choice?

Liked by 1 person

3. deiseach - July 7, 2016

The lack of research in the article is staggering. Someone called Eoghan has outlined several things he gets wrong in comments for the article, and I’d like to add the fact that the Erasmus programme that is ‘open to the whole world since 2009’ suspended Switzerland in 2014 after their referendum imposing limits on immigration (http://ec.europa.eu/programmes/erasmus-plus/updates/20140128-participation-switzerland-erasmus-plus_en).

He is right when he says that “it is clear that the UK can get any deal it wants”. What he should have said next though was not “It just has to agree on what that is”. It should have been “It just has to agree on what it is willing to pay”. There seems to be a spirit moving the Brexiters about how the rest of Europe will be bloody grateful to take whatever Britain is willing to offer. I have a genuine concern (although the bould Newton would airily dismiss this as not truly genuine because) that when the penny drops in Britain that they will have to pay for some things, the reaction will be to not want to buy anything at all. Should that happen, I hope Newton Emerson has some solutions for my genuine cross-border needs.

Liked by 1 person

4. EWI - July 7, 2016

daily life will be unaffected apart from the creation of another exaggerated grievance.

Fifty years ago, Newton would have been another of those smug Unionist types North of the border insisting that Catholics had no cause to complain in the six-county paradise.

Liked by 2 people

Dr. X - July 8, 2016

“Would have been”? That’s what he is now!


5. EWI - July 7, 2016

[Trimble] who has moved from having once voted in favour of UK membership of the EU’s predecessor, the European Common Market, to now being firmly in support of a British withdrawal from the EU – said that he believed that in the event of a UK vote for independence from the EU there would be a return to physical border controls between Northern Ireland and the Republic.


The barely-retrained glee with which several well-known Unionists have regarded Brexit leads to the suspicion that privately, and contra Newton, they do indeed see it as a way to unravel the GFA and shut out the hated Taigs in the south.


gendjinn - July 7, 2016

Oh they do indeed, they are hewing to the “out of the EU”, “out of the ECHR” line and out of any Unionist state employee being brought to account for murder & terrorism.

So yeah, there’s about half of Unionism that would do anything to unravel the GFA.


WorldbyStorm - July 7, 2016

It is astounding. Trimble’s trajectory is particularly telling. You can take the man out of Vanguard… but…

Liked by 1 person

gendjinn - July 8, 2016

It used to be astounding, then someone got me to read up on “settler colony psychology”.

During one of the big GFA discussions in Stormont, Mowlam comes out of one of the rooms, sits down beside the relative. Takes her wig off (still bald from the treatments), scratches her head, throws her eyes to heaven and says “Them fucking Unionists!” Puts the wig back on, gets up and heads back into the room.

An apt summary of political unionism.


6. roddy - July 7, 2016

At least 75 % of unionism voted for Brexit.


Jolly Red Giant - July 7, 2016

The North according to roddy – everyone is either nationalist or unionist.


gendjinn - July 8, 2016

Bit of a straw man there JRG. I’m sure roddy would be the first to concede that everyone in the north is nationalist, unionist or too scared to be honest 😉


7. roddy - July 7, 2016

Gendjinn said half of unionism would do anything to unravel the GFA.. I replied 75% of unionism backed Brexit.What’s your problem?


Jolly Red Giant - July 8, 2016

Like I said – for you everything in the North can be reduced to the simple logic of nationalist or unionist.

And I don’t have a problem – I rarely look at the world in such simplistic terms and I find it beneficial not to do so.


gendjinn - July 8, 2016


and the decades of election results do nothing to persuade you that roddy may be right?


Jolly Red Giant - July 8, 2016

A series of elections that were/are nothing more than sectarian headcounts do nothing to persuade me.

Do Catholics vote for nationalist parties and Protestant vote for unionist parties – absolutely yes. Are many Catholics nationalists and many Protestants unionists – absolutely yes. But neither the Catholic or Protestant communities are, nor should they be, simply tagged as nationalist or unionists – and that is even more the case when looking at the Brexit vote


Joe - July 8, 2016

I don’t really get that JRG. Yes there are a tiny number of Catholics who are unionists and a tiny number of Protestants who are nationalists. But generally the populations can be mapped: Catholic = nationalist, Protestant = unionist.
And yes, I’m sure there are a tiny number of people in the north who, if you asked them are they nationalist or unionist might reply “Neither, I’m a socialist” or “I’m a libertarian anarchist” or, indeed, “I’m a Jehovah’s witness” or whatever. But, sadly, a tiny number.
Northern Ireland has been described by one commenter on here as a ‘shithole’. That was probably said in frustration and may be a tad harsh. But, in my view, the shitholeosity of it is in the fact that, fundamentally, when it boils down to it, everyone up there is either a nationalist or a unionist. A Border Poll would give us a breakdown of proportion of each. That breakdown would be nice to have. Not so nice would be the ratcheting up of sectarian tensions, attacks, murders even, that would probably come with the running of a Border Poll.


gendjinn - July 8, 2016


in that light I would venture that we are all in agreement. While there has historically been a very strong correlation between community background and political alignment. There was been a very modest breakdown in that alignment in the last 20 years.

But to the original comment you made about roddy’s perspective on northern Irish allegiances, pretty much most everyone IS either a Unionist or a Nationalist. Especially in the context of a border poll.


gendjinn - July 8, 2016

About half of Unionism voted for the GFA, but subsequent polling indicates far less would vote for it now. It would be dismaying if 75% of Unionism is now anti-GFA, but not that surprising.


8. gendjinn - July 8, 2016

Apparently Flanagan is claiming Kenny’s office took a flyer on the All-Ireland Forum and have embarrassed him terribly.


Joe - July 8, 2016

Well that goes against my theory that it was a very clever ruse to ensure that the unionists would engage through the already-exisiting mechanisms under the GFA. Whatever.
All this talk about how the unionists hate the GFA and would scrap it if they got the chance. Well maybe so. But look at Arlene Foster at that press conference after the most recent meeting. She said no to a new all-Ireland forum to discuss Brexit. But she followed up by saying that it can be discussed in all the bodies that are already in existence under the GFA. She added that ministers can just pick up the phone to each other. From my clearly warped perspective, she was very open to north-south discussions on Brexit, using the mechanisms established under the GFA.


Gewerkschaftler - July 8, 2016

Well, here’s hoping that kind of pragmatism will prevail, Joe.


gendjinn - July 8, 2016

Yes, hopefully. Although I reckon that was just chaff to district from her “Out! Out! Out!” statement, not really something they will put any effort into.


Joe - July 8, 2016

Her “Out!Out!Out!” statement? Enda Kenny’s proposal wasn’t even put at the meeting. When the press raised it after the meeting, Foster said it hadn’t been discussed with her at any stage prior to the meeting and it hadn’t been proposed at the meeting. Then she went on to say all the GFA bodies were there and Brexit issues could be discussed at them.
As for them not putting any effort into it. Potential effects of Brexit will be of interest to the Irish government and to the Northern Ireland Executive. Of course they will put effort into discussing Brexit issues and minimising any damage that could be done to people’s livelihoods on both sides of the Border. Pragmatism.


gendjinn - July 8, 2016


a bit of poetic license and yes an exaggeration. I’m sure the south will try to work it, but I can’t see the DUP doing squat even after the bucket of cold water reality awakens them.


9. roddy - July 8, 2016

Arlene has joined the list of “great white hopes” that Southern neo unionist types will be disappointed in yet again.


gendjinn - July 8, 2016

That Arlene comprehensively locked up the backwoods DUP vote during the leadership transition tells us precisely what she is. Anyone who thinks she is anything but a bitter Unionist Thatcher are lying to themselves.


10. sonofstan - July 8, 2016

I suppose it’s worth noting the gendered implications of ‘hysteria’ here, right?

Liked by 1 person

WorldbyStorm - July 8, 2016

I hate the word for precisely that reason.


gendjinn - July 8, 2016

Ah yes, but when Unionists are being snide you know they are insecure and what follows is bravado of the all hat no cattle variety.

And remember, hysteria was a term used to denigrate and dismiss the valid critique women were making. So when Newtown is using such a loaded term he’s broadcasting Unionisms insecurity to the world.


11. Paddy Healy - July 10, 2016

Inter-Imperialist Conflict Developing-It gave rise to 2 world wars but then as now nobody noticed (or pretended they didn’t notice) until it was upon us!
Prof David Farrel-The Week In Politics
Risk of new European banking crisis as ‘kick and hope’ strategy runs out of road
Prof Colm McCarthy Sunday Independent 10/07/2016

Ireland North or South has no sovereignty to deal with imperialist-imposed austerity and future deadly dangers
Yet Sinn Féin, Tony Coughlan, AAA-PBP are taking sides on whether Imperialist UK should leave imperialist EU

It is Time to Concentrate on the issue of Irish Sovereignty


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