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Brexit – a view from unionism January 13, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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This is an odd one, Dennis Kennedy, that doughty defender of the union and partition, writing in the IT about Brexit. Kennedy is, like a fair few of us, not well pleased, perhaps particularly because it brings home to him the reality of the union – that is that Northern Ireland and Scotland, and Wales to an extent, are strapped in to a vehicle where England has complete control of the direction and speed and destination. That latter dynamic is grand when things are going alright. Not so great when things are disintegrating all around.

It’s particularly fascinating to read his piece and see how it is focused almost entirely on the machinations of Westminster and Parliament. Northern Ireland? Not so much. And how can it be otherwise when NI has such minimal representation in Westminster. Not that he’s wrong about some aspects of the problem:

Bland assurances that there will be no return to a “hard” Border in Ireland look increasingly hollow, and there is almost total uncertainty as to what the overall trade relationship between UK and EU might be after Brexit.

Or this:

So to keep repeating “Brexit is Brexit” and “the people have spoken” when we still have no clear idea of what it will really mean is inane and irresponsible.
What if article 50 is activated next March and thereafter it becomes clear that any deal emerging from the subsequent negotiations is going to be seriously damaging to the UK’s vital national interests? The time to ponder that question is before article 50 is triggered, not after, and the place to do so is in parliament.

Still it is odd to see him essay a number of lines that – frankly, I think, even from my anti-Brexit position are incorrect.

The referendum did result in a vote for Leave, but only 38 per cent of “the people” (the total electorate) voted to leave, with about 34 per cent to remain.
Does that in itself constitute a mandate for the biggest constitutional change in 43 years?

It’s irrelevant, all the above. The point is that a referendum was held, there was a narrow win for exiting the European Union. That is, even in the context of an advisory referendum probably sufficient in terms of process and almost certainly in relation to the politics of the issue to allow for an exit.

Of course parliament has a role, but I think he’s incorrect that parliament could over-rule the referendum vote. At best/worst it could, and should really, hold the form of the exit to account, or rather the government of the day to account on the form of the exit, because the truly pernicious thing about this is that exiting the EU still allows for any number of relationships with the EU or in bodies associated with the EU including the EEA or whatever. And exiting the EU allows for freedom of movement and a customs union because non-members can be members of those while remaining outside the EU proper. Or indeed no relationship at all bar the most cursory. In other words – and here he is correct – Brexit is Brexit is indeed meaningless other than saying that the UK will no longer be a member of the EU.

I think it would be democratically appropriate for an eventual deal to be brought back to the UK electorate. But it’s not absolutely necessary as long as the UK is no longer a member of the EU.

Yet none of this is clear, none of this is simple, even to talk of democracy is to open up significant problems. For to take but two examples the situation of Scotland and Northern Ireland certainly confuses concepts of democratic legitimacy in all this. Given they already have competencies devolved to local governments it seems perverse that the sheer weight of numbers of the population of England should determine every last aspect of their relationship. Nor does it seem appropriate that their vote for retaining membership should have no weight whatsoever. But that, in a way, is for NI and Scotland to fight out with the British government as best they can. A further confusion is in relation to the situation more broadly on this island. Obviously the population in this state had no say at all in a matter that has a massive and direct impact. And without question if we take this island as a whole the population would be starkly in favour of retaining EU membership. Where are their/our democratic rights in relation to these aspects? Who will or can uphold them?

Kennedy doesn’t mention that the largest and arguably most reactionary formation in unionism supports Brexit. That the DUP MPs will vote solidly with the Tories on this issue. But that’s not unimportant.

Perhaps Kennedy might have a slightly greater sympathy for those of us who believe that this island is better when all its components are reaching towards some sort of unity of purpose, if not necessarily yet deeper unity for some time to come. Small steps. But in the context of a world of Brexit, necessary ones. Not that the chaos in Stormont seems to allow for much of them.

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Comments»

1. bjg - January 13, 2017

David Marquand in the Guardian on some other aspects of Brexit and the Union https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jan/13/britain-doesnt-really-exist-exit–eu

bjg

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sonofstan - January 13, 2017

“What does exist today is a state called the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It is not a nation state like France or Denmark.”

Sez Marquand.

Except, in both cases, the state, or institutions thereof, include non-continuous bits of national territory with anomolous constitutional status; in the case of France, islands dotted all over the world, and in Denmark’s case, Greenland and the Faroes – neither of which is in the EU. The constitutional weirdness of the UK is not entirely sui generis.

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2. Roger Cole - January 13, 2017

The people in Republic of Ireland voted to reject the Nice and Lisbon Treaties and were forced to vote again on exactly the same treaties, except the second time around all the corporate media and rich elite spent €millions to ensure victory. Now the leaders of the EU are actively calling for the creation of a European Army (Merkel was at it again today). For 21 years PANA has opposed the militarisation of the EU and transformation of Ireland into a US Aircraft Carrier allowing nearly 3 million US troops use Shannon Airport to go and kill thousands upon thousands of men women and children, an activity totally supported by people like Kennedy. Now like the rest of the European Empire Loyalists he clearly wants the people of the UK & NI to vote again just as we were forced to. Of course a soft Brexit is in the interests not just of the people of the UK & NI but the people of all the other states of the EU, but the warmongering EU elite seem determined to punish the people of the UK & NI by insisting on a hard Brexit. As your readers all know the OSS, the predecessor of the CIA heavily funded the pro European groups, so the EU is really just a child of the Cold War, now revitalised as the EU states in NATO ensure massive cuts in health, social welfare etc in order to massively expand their military in a growing military confrontation with Russia which could easily lead to nuclear war and the end of all life on the planet. PANA advocates Irish Independence, Irish Democracy and Irish Neutrality just as Connolly, Pearse and may others did when they founded the Irish Neutrality League in 1914. Over 50,000 Irish people died defending the British Union, and a meeting at the Forum on Europe, the current Minister for Foreign Affairs told me we (the Irish) should be prepared to die to defend the European Union. Now Flanagan and Kennedy might want us to fight and die for the EU, but this time it will not be 50,000 volunteers, but the entire Irish people.
So, with respect, Kennedy’s opinions should get the respect they deserve.

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