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Ireland, the Tories and the Brexit referendum… October 13, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Depressing, piece here in the IT from a chief press officer for Europe and Economic Affairs at 10 Downing Street from 2015 to 2017 which underlines one key issue, that Ireland (and Matt O’Toole is Irish, from Downpatrick, with an Irish passport) was just not part of the issue in the Brexit referendum.

He points to one very interesting reason for that:

Vote Leave had virtually nothing to say on Ireland or the Border, but sustained no identifiable damage to their cause as a result. They were assisted by two things.
First, Theresa Villiers. The serving Northern Ireland secretary’s imprimatur offered legitimacy to Leave’s lack of a policy, and prevented both the British government (and probably also the Irish Government) from attacking their position with the zeal they might otherwise have done.


Second, the Remain campaign was based on focusing swing voters’ minds on a narrow proposition: that a vote to leave the European Union was too economically risky. That approach had worked in the 2014 Scottish referendum and the 2015 UK general election.
That strategy was also a rational response to polling data. English voters were going to win or lose the 2016 referendum.

Clearly it didn’t work in 2016.

But he points to how the Northern Ireland and the current dispensation is wrested away by Brexit, that while EU membership was not central, it was hugely important contextually, to the Good Friday Agreement and after. And how all this is different now. He also notes how he ‘travelled on an Irish passport to do British prime ministerial business. No one batted an eyelid’. One has to wonder how the web of relations currently existing are going to deal with the future of post-Brexit Britain.

Still, it also points up something else. He writes:

My colleagues on Cameron’s political team were certainly sympathetic – many of them were also angry about Leave’s approach to the Irish question – but the truth was that not enough target voters cared enough to make it a central campaign issue.
And there wasn’t enough time to make them care.

But this is the great void at the heart of British political activity for decades. The reality of the EU, bad and good, has never been truly engaged with – still isn’t (to judge from the utter nonsense in relation to nationalisation being impossible in the EU and so on one keeps hearing from people who should know better), by governments and parties of various complexions. Instead Britain has largely conducted a conversation with itself and one which uses caricatures rather than the actuality. So, the actual EU, an entity which is deeply problematic is never addressed usefully, instead being conceptually ignored or literally bypassed as with Brexit. Except the EU is going to continue to exist whether Britain leaves or not and all the superheated rhetoric on line and off about it facing an existential crisis over Brexit is yet more hyperbole from people whose perspectives seem to be rooted in London.

O’Toole is no fan of SF and I think his positioning of that party and the DUP as equidistant is too pat, as well as ignoring that SF is actually euro-critical and not at all happy with Brexit but the insight his writing gives is undeniably compelling into mindsets in the UK.


1. CL - October 14, 2017

“Johnson and Rees-Mogg both evoke the image of late-imperial Britain to which the aging membership of the Conservative Party feels drawn…
A poll in July showed for the first time that if a second referendum were held, the Remain side would win, with 54 percent of the vote to 46 percent for Leave….
If the polling numbers start to move strongly against Brexit, the political class will surely take note and start moving toward the only solution that makes sense for Britain: to abandon the whole disastrous project altogether.”


2. sonofstan - October 14, 2017

“start moving toward the only solution that makes sense for Britain: to abandon the whole disastrous project altogether.”

Theyt won’t – the best that can be hoped for is that a Labour govt. effectively go for the Norway option – membership in all but name but with no voting rights.

Liked by 1 person

3. CL - October 14, 2017

An interesting statement by Varadkar on Brexit and NI. If the UK leaves the single market and customs union, the EU it appears is willing to grant what is in effect ‘special status’ to NI. It won’t of course be called that.
“”A solution which does not undermine the constitutional settlement in any way, rather one that takes account of the realities on this island and builds on common regulatory approaches, frameworks and systems,” Varadkar said.

This is more sensible than Fianna Fail’s call for an ‘electronic border’


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