Brexit equivalent to reunification of Ireland? Don’t think so. November 3, 2016Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
Brexit may well be a calamity, but it is hardly the end of the world. Expert assessments of its worst-case scenario are strikingly similar to unification’s likeliest scenario, namely, a decade or so of recession, confusion, disruption and argument, followed by a return to the long-term growth trend.
Actually that’s not the worst possible outcome. The worst possible outcome some have proposed is the UK sidelined permanently internationally economically and in other respects, suffering from much lower rates of growth than its neighbours and – of course, the fragmentation of the UK itself (some of this we may see as a positive. It is unlikely that Emerson would agree).
But note that reference to unity of this island for this is his latest tack. But what is telling is how he continues to cherry pick and compare like with unlike. For example:
There will still be victims: Brexit looks hopeless for farming and food processing, while Hübner anticipates that there may be thousands of public sector job losses in the North.
However, the dislocation would be nothing on the scale of Latvia’s near-overnight loss of a fifth of its GDP in 2008, to cite another example nationalists missed. Roughly the size of Northern Ireland and suffering a loss similar to Belfast’s subsidy from London, Latvia fully recovered within five years.
But the obvious problem with that analysis is that a recession is not identical to leaving a political/cultural/social bloc. That, at least to this point, states can ‘recover’ from recessions (though as we also know power and wealth seem to concentrate ever more, at least in this period). Whereas Brexit is – and this he ignores completely, a complete rupture across many many more areas. There’s no status quo ante to return to, it’s not simply measured by returning to this or that level of GDP.
Perhaps for him this can be waved away, but it is in the next part that I think the wheels come off.
This is merely comparing the economic experiences of Brexit and unification. That comparison is important because the Scottish independence campaign has shifted the Irish debate firmly on to these grounds.
This may be news to him, but once more there is no comparison. The Brexit of the UK, a major global economy and the reunification of this island – a not so major global economy, whether north or south or collectively, are two completely different phenomena. And a managed process of reunification (and it’s not unknown by the way, or unprecedented, we’ve seen reunification’s in our lifetime) which could take years, more likely decades, and with sufficient financial and constitutional safeguards to cushion shocks both economic and political as against a process of departure of two… count ’em, two years, is once again simply not comparable with a Brexit that is as absurdly rapid as it is comprehensive. Moreover there are already congruences and convergences on this island that can be built on. It would constitute a rupture in some respects but it would relatively straightforward to minimise same (and I can’t see reunification not retaining some north east/east political links into the medium or long term, perhaps – for example – some representation in a UK representative body).
Small wonder given this glaring problem that he’s off musing about irrelevancies.
But in the end, is money really a decisive factor in something as profound as national identity? The Republic went through boom and bust without allegiances notably changing either way. Northern Ireland has been on economic life support since the 1970s, but unionist convictions have not faltered.
Who said they had? But that’s an interesting point he raises for first the population of Northern Ireland (and Scotland) voted to Remain and its wishes have been disregarded, and those who voted for Remain in the UK as a whole (and not a small minority as the Tories rule subsequent would attempt to suggest) have seen themselves and their concerns neatly sidelined. There are those of us who would argue there’s a lesson in there both about identity and democracy in the constituent parts of the UK and it rather makes the supposed democratic wishes of the population of NI seems – well, contingent.
And then there’s this:
Perhaps what Brexit can best provide to the nationalist cause is the lived experience of constitutional uncertainty without the sky falling in.
We are already witnessing a whirl of political flux and speculation across Britain and Ireland that makes the Belfast Agreement look like a minor matter of local government reform and the Anglo-Irish Agreement look like the convening of a sub-committee.
Here I think we run slap bang into another of the contradictory aspects of his analysis. Either such speculation and political flux is accurate in which case his implicit line of ‘not a bother this Brexit thing, stop complaining’ is incorrect, or it’s not. If the latter why bring it up. And so simultaneously while downplaying Brexit he – in a way – seems to be playing up the problems of reunification.
Yet both parties [SF and the SDLP] also seem to be warning of trouble ahead. Eastwood has said of Brexit: “Northern nationalists are once more a restless people.”
Sinn Féin speaks repeatedly, if vaguely, of a threat to the peace process.
This is no way to refer to a transition comparable to the one you want to put unionists through – and must persuade a number of unionists to support.
If would be better and almost certainly more accurate to say that the United Kingdom is no more, but only settled, peaceful and ultimately painless change is expected.
If any lesson is to be drawn from Scottish nationalism, it should be that.
I’m hard pressed to see the connection between that last line and the one’s preceding it. And while he may find his idea of ‘ultimately painless’ change convincing that again is contradicted by his own words earlier in the piece where even under the most benign Brexit scenario he notes as quoted above the negative impacts on farmers and food processors. Perhaps I’m unfair to ask that he subject his own writing to a little more of a forensic critique, but then again maybe I’m not.
Moreover it would be remiss as well as panglossian of both the SDLP and Sf not to point to the potential dangers of a hard border and the security risks it would generate, the focus for discontent and worse. And to point to that potential is not to ‘threaten’.
And there are deeper questions which his other columns on this topic raise as to his understanding of the dispensation on this island. As always he seems to be reserving his ire not for the proponents and architects of Brexit and the chaos that has ensued, but rather for those who have been forced to react and respond to its negative outcomes.
But what of his fundamental thesis that Brexit is equivalent to reunification? This group, as noted here last night, would beg to differ…
Managing Britain’s exit from the European Union is such a formidable and complex challenge that it could overwhelm politicians and civil servants for years, senior academics have warned.
A report from The UK in a Changing Europe, an independent group of academics led by Prof Anand Menon of King’s College London, warns that this will only be the start of the process of extricating Britain from the EU and establishing new relationships with other member states.
“Brexit has the potential to test the UK’s constitutional settlement, legal framework, political process and bureaucratic capacities to their limits – and possibly beyond,” Menon said.
The group of experts, commissioned by the Political Studies Association, found that identifying and transposing the legislation to be included in the great repeal bill – and then deciding what to keep and what to ditch – will be a daunting task for civil servants.
They also warn that while article 50, as set out in the Lisbon treaty, concerns the terms of a divorce with the rest of the EU – including what share of EU liabilities the UK should take on, for example – it is unclear whether the process can allow for parallel negotiations on Britain’s future status.
And closer to home:
And they suggest the repatriation of decision-making in key policy areas including agriculture, the environment and higher education to Britain from Brussels could affect the balance of power between Westminster and the devolved parliaments – another major constitutional headache for politicians.
Not quite ‘nothing to see here’ – eh?