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The totality of relations between this state and the UK August 16, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

I’m always a bit wary of John FitzGerald’s analysis – but here’s an interesting piece on the nature of relations, both political and economic between the ROI and the UK across many decades.

He notes, in the Irish Times, that:

….I joined the Department of Finance in 1972, [and] one of my first jobs was to put away the files on Ireland’s external economic relations. These files went to the basement and did not reappear in my subsequent 12 years in the department. They covered a range of negotiations between Ireland and the UK, including the Anglo-Irish Free Trade Agreement of 1965.

And further that:

What the files showed was that Ireland, over its first 50 years of independence, had been a mendicant, going to London to seek better access to the UK market for Irish goods, especially agricultural produce.
What was also clear was that Ireland had to content itself with whatever the UK, in its generosity, decided to offer. One of the lessons of the first 50 years of independence was that, when you are small, don’t find yourself in a room negotiating with a large nation on your own.

I often think that that aspect to the relationships is under considered (though Michael Carley mentioned this recently). Large states and small states – for obvious reasons – have vastly different interests. Add in the simple divergence of populations and resources and one can see how that has shaped and continues to shape relationships between these islands. Conor McCabe too in Sins of the Fathers has uncovered the centrality of aspects of the economic relationship that some would like to keep under wraps as much as possible (indeed sonofstan’s review here points to that directly).

So, some of that changed, some of it didn’t. FitzGerald saying that:

At the beginning of 1973, Ireland became a member of the EEC and we moved into a very different world. Our economic interests were then protected by EU law. No longer did Ireland have to beg: instead it was operating in a multilateral world where representatives from each country, small or large, were treated with respect. The search for agreement had to have something of benefit for all participants.

Now. One has to hedge that with all manner of caveats. The protections have been double-sided, Janus-like, good in some respects, far from it in others. And the changing nature o the EEC/EC/EU itself has been no small matter either. But there is a degree of truth that Ireland has forged a path that has diverged from the UK in certain areas. No harm there either.

FitzGerald goes further arguing that:

All this suggests that Ireland’s interests in the final Brexit agreement can best be protected if the negotiations are carried out by the EU on our behalf. The calls by some for Ireland to negotiate bilaterally with Britain on economic matters are unwise given our historical experience, and they ignore the fact that, legally, the agreement will be between the EU and the UK.
The EU, with a population more than five times that of the UK, has the power to cut a better deal with the UK on behalf of its 27 remaining members, including Ireland, than any state might negotiate on their own. This time, it will be Britain that is the minority party in the room.

In some respects that is absolutely correct. And yet it is not either or, aspects of the history of the islands, most notably the existence of the land border and the contested nature of that border as well as the framework of agreements around that contest that have developed in recent decades mean that there are very specific reasons why bilateralism is also going to be very important. In fairness FitzGerald acknowledges that too in relation to the CTA – and he makes the point that behind us will be the rest of the EU. Should make for interesting negotiations.

As to the outcomes, notable that FitzGerald posits that:

…our priority objective from the Brexit negotiations will be to safeguard free movement of people on the island of Ireland, while still protecting our own interests as EU members. All EU citizens have the right to visit Ireland, to live in Ireland and to work here. This cannot change.

That is the circle that has to be squared. How that works, how that can avoid a ‘hard border’ on this island escapes me.

And returning to the previous relationship between the ROI and the UK:

In the first 50 years of the State, the Department of Justice often operated as the Dublin branch of the British Home Office in deciding who could come to Ireland. The current British prime minister made some ominous suggestions last month suggesting that she would like to return to this arrangement.
Ireland needs to make it absolutely clear that we will determine who can enter Ireland. It is for the UK to find a way to meet their own interests: to protect their citizens in Northern Ireland by maintaining freedom of movement across the Border, while at the same time they have signalled they want to restrict the rights of EU citizens generally to live and work in the UK.

Perhaps I’m wrong, but that latter paragraph seems to merely restate the nature of the problem. Time for some potential solutions to be aired.


1. oldpoet56 - August 16, 2016
2. Joe - August 16, 2016

Great post WBS. Fascinating stuff. Let’s hope the Irish government is gearing up properly for the negotiations. I’d be fearful they’ll chicken out and leave it to the big powers in the EU to do the work and the RoI will be left to make the best of whatever deal is done.

Not sure about this line from Fitzgerald though: ‘In the first 50 years of the State, the Department of Justice often operated as the Dublin branch of the British Home Office in deciding who could come to Ireland’.
I think the history of our Dept of Justice shows it was and still is well capable of implementing racist anti-foreigner policies without any need for direction from the UK. The Jews who were refused entry here in the 30s are a case in point.


benmadigan - August 16, 2016

“Let’s hope the Irish government is gearing up properly for the negotiations” – that’s the key point Joe.

Enda or whoever is in charge of the negotiations needs to realise Ireland has 26 allies in the EU, that it has taken its place among the nations of Europe where it is treated with respect and that Brexit is an England&Wales cock-up, since even NI voted to remain and Scotland is agitating for Indyref2 so it can remain in the EU.

There is no mileage/advantage for ireland in prancing about as England’s new and only best friend!!


Joe - August 16, 2016

Not sure about the respect bit, ben. The EU didn’t show us much respect when our banks and developers made shit of our economy back in 07/08. The EU kicked us when we were down. Not as hard as they (including us) kicked the Greeks but ‘respect’ was in short supply.
So we’ve got to play hardball with the rest of the EU in these negotiations – hardball about the economic and societal (yes, the peace process) importance of the totality of relationships on these islands.
For the rest of the EU, it’ll be about the economics and border rules. For us it will be too but for us, it could be literally a matter of life and death. So if Enda or whoever lets the rest of the EU dictate, that could be disastrous.


3. oconnorlysaght - August 17, 2016

‘If Enda or whoever lets the rest of the EU dictate, that could be disastrous.’
Be afraid: be very, very afraid.


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