Irexit January 11, 2017Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
I’d have a couple of quibbles with the thrust of Noel Whelan’s piece here in the Irish Times where he argues that an Irish exit of the EU isn’t beyond the bounds of possibility and should be one of the options explored by the state. It’s not that he’s incorrect that circumstances might lead us to that pass. But he says the following:
In an interesting opinion piece in the Sunday Business Post last weekend, the former Department of Foreign Affairs official Ray Bassett, whose perspective on Europe is obviously different from Farage’s, also raised the possibility that Brexit might give rise to the possibility of Ireland leaving the EU. Indeed, Bassett went further and argued that drawing attention to the risk of Ireland leaving should be part of our negotiating strategy in order to counter the “punish the Brits” elements in Brussels. His central point was that we should be emphasising the risk of “Irexit” as a means of concentrating minds in the EU about how damaging a hard Brexit could be for Ireland.
Of course one could argue that that is essentially the RoI threatening to punish the EU. Fair enough some might say, but let’s be clear about the dynamics. Actually Bassett didn’t quite, if one reads his text, come out in favour of an Irexit seeing it as pretty much a last gasp option. But the way it was spun both by the SBP in its headlines and here by Whelan is interesting.
But there’s a broader point, and this I think is more important again. Whelan argues:
This week saw a knee-jerk reaction even to the slightest suggestion that Ireland’s future in Europe might be in any doubt. In an extended interview with Sean O’Rourke on RTÉ radio on Wednesday, the former Ukip leader Nigel Farage said that if Brexit proved a success for Britain, then Ireland would also re-examine its relationship with Europe. He didn’t say that Ireland would leave but that Irish public opinion would reconsider its position, his analysis being contingent on a successful economic outcome for Britain from Brexit.
…But just because it came out of the mouth of Nigel Farage doesn’t mean his opinion couldn’t come true, albeit not for the reasons he suggests. All the polling suggests that the Irish are currently well-disposed to continued membership of the EU, but that could change as Brexit alters our relationships.
But although he mentions the basic fact that ‘Six months later, there is still a lack of clarity about what form Brexit will take, and even what kind of Brexit Britain wants.’ he doesn’t quite get to grips with the question as to whose fault is that? It’s hardly the EU’s. It’s certainly not the fault of this state.
It is entirely the fault of a British government whose constant refrain of ‘Brexit means Brexit’ is a rather pathetic derogation of responsibility. Yet, and I’ve noticed this dynamic with those such as Bassett, rather than pointing to this inconvenient truth (one could also add that it is bizarre to see Farage being given such prominence in this matter. Granted he’s still an MEP but who precisely does he represent other than himself at this point?).
Whelan is concerned, quoting a report for the German-Irish Chamber of Industry and Commerce – that:
“A hard Brexit has the potential to inflict serious collateral damage on Ireland and may give rise to anti-EU sentiment,” they cautioned.
They also warned that those within the EU who wanted to impose very harsh terms on Britain, to discourage other member states, needed to “actively consider whether this will build momentum towards an ‘Irexit’, further undermining European cohesion”.
But again, whose fault is this? What state is pushing for a ‘hard’ Brexit, i.e. one that sets itself outside the EU and the EEA/EFTA and potentially the customs union and… well, who knows where this ends?
This seeming aversion to saying, actually that this is a problem both of Britain’s making and exacerbated by a British government that appears all too like a rabbit caught in the headlights of an oncoming car, unsure whether to run or stay rooted to the spot, is curious. Again, an Irish exit is possible, though unlikely. But it’s notable how coy Whelan and Bassett are about the upside of any such decision. What precisely are the benefits and how do they stack up against the negatives?