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Ireland and the US and EU November 19, 2020

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Excellent Brexit Republic podcast from RTÉ the other day which at every turn had a raft of intriguing thoughts. In it Tony Connelly made the point that with the UK out of the EU Ireland will now be the natural interlocutor for the US and the EU – particularly with Joe Biden in the White House. Then again, as he noted, with Ireland under the spotlight on tax issue it may not be too keen to be seen too close to the US.

This really is quite a turnaround – as the panel noted, in the first communication from Biden to Johnson he was open about the importance of the GFA/BA, and this inflects all else in relation to Brexit. In some ways the isolation of the UK is only just beginning to become clear. To some extent Brexit – as it developed – bet the house on a US where Trump would be there for two terms, perhaps not explicitly but implicitly. But this idea of the Republic as the obvious, almost inevitable, entry point for the US to the EU now that Britain has retreated, makes a lot of sense. A shared language, various affinities, the need for the US to engage usefully with a rival/partner. All these make for Ireland suddenly acquiring a greater cachet.

One big problem for Johnson is the Internal Markets Bill he has championed supposedly is meant to ‘safeguard’ the GFA/BA, but now with someone in the White House who actually does have some regard for the GFA/BA – for party reasons as well as his Irish connections, that makes it very difficult for that argument to take flight. And Connelly noted that Washington, Brussels and Dublin simply do not believe London’s protestations on the issue. Indeed one could go further. The last five years or so have been an exercise in London delegitimising itself piece by piece, week by week, in the eyes of others. That it has appeared almost blissfully unaware of this, or perhaps more accurately indifferent, to all this is depressing.

Séan Whelan reporting from London spoke of how there may be a recalibration of London’s rhetoric and even substance – that there may be a pivot from Trumpian/Cummings like confrontation. He noted that the UK’s chief negotiator with the EU was said to have considered resignation – but he thought this wasn’t perhaps just about Brexit but about a broader context. Wonder what that is. In any event others inside the Tories are fixing upon the arrival of Biden as a means of getting beyond that Cumming/confrontational approach. Of course the Tories aren’t monolithic, there are various strands within them, as we have learned over the years again and again.

Intriguingly Connelly suggest perhaps there was a concern that without the Cummings red meat approach the Tories would return to being a ‘boring South of England’ party. Though as Whelan noted newly elected North of England Tories won’t quite let that happen, yet. Or as he put it, the threat of losing seats is central to their concerns. And that is a glue that will bind them together and have an impact.

All this said, Connelly noted that the Brexit now in the offing is a particuarly hard version, that it actually is nothing like the Brexit envisaged by the overwhelming majority of British voters in the aftermath of the referendum. And he feels that even now there’s this strange fundamental philosophical point – an unwillingness to compromise even in the way that occurs in usual trade treaties, which has hobbled the British from the off. Whelan noted too that there’s no readiness on the part of Britain for what happens once the New Year comes along. Incredible. But worth keeping in mind that this is a Tory project. Ironically comes the news that a majority within Britain actually hold a favourable view of the EU. Absence makes the heart grow fonder?

As a side issue, some genuinely shocking stuff noted by Séan Whelan on how the Covid testing regime in the UK has been farmed out to the private sector rather than, as he put it, an augmented public health structure, and for ideological reasons and with a consequent chaotic aspect to it. This certainly puts the abysmal numbers there in a different perspective.


1. sonofstan - November 19, 2020

I’m always a little sceptical about the ‘they love us over there’ narrative that official Ireland likes to promote with regard to the US. They probably like us, but they also know that Angela Merkel, or for that matter, Boris Johnson, is a lot more significant than MM.
I also think the comforting belief that the UK will be diminished hugely by Brexit is overstated: obviously it will be damaging, but, rather like all those people who didn’t move to Canada when Trump was elected, the withdrawal of industry and capital from what’s still one of the world’s largest economies remains a projection.


WorldbyStorm - November 19, 2020

Broadly agree – Britain isn’t going to collapse or anything like it. However it was extremely well place as an entry point for the US in particular to the EU and absent that there will be an effect. The question though is what precisely is Britain most useful for. I don’t think the hard Brexit crew were entirely incorrect in a purely utilitarian sense in seeing a role as a sort of Singapore in the Atlantic – of course that’s little use to the general UK population but really what other from their (hard Brexit) perspective was or is there? They’ve effectively cut through the web of linkages with Europe (again the point about this being a very hard Brexit is key) and their orientation globally in many many areas is spotty – Australia, NZ, Canada et al have moved on in terms of deeper regional engagements (indeed EUReferenfum noted recently that in some ways NZs agreements with the EU were more complex than those the UK was going to have). So for a certain class and in certain areas the free booting stuff makes sense. But that leaves an awful lot of other people in Britain on the outside.


rockroots - November 19, 2020

I think you’re right that there’s a danger of overestimating the significance of an ‘Irish’ American president. As has been mentioned here before, the Trump team included more than it’s fair share of Irish-American (emphasis probably on the latter part, to be fair) without it being of any great benefit. All the rhetoric from Biden – and even Nancy Pelosi – sounds good, but there’s likely to be a continued stalemate in US government, coupled with a health & economic crisis. With the best will in the world, how much can he achieve? The inevitable presidential visit to Mayo will boost tourism, the predictable photo-op will boost sales of Guinness, and there will be a harder line around Brexit initially, but they know what side their bread is buttered. The final answer on corporate tax loopholes will probably be of greater importance than who is in the White House.


WorldbyStorm - November 19, 2020

I do think the situation re Brexit, the weight of a sympathetic albeit realistic WH is no small thing. But yeah, I don’t think beyond that and a general goodwill re the GFA/BA it amounts to too much. Still, as we know, rhetoric does actually mean something in terms of how things work or not. That said, it will be interesting to see more broadly how the US, whether under Democratic or Republican Presidents reorients towards the EU. At the very least Biden and his team are considerably more Europhiliac than the present incumbent.


2. CL - November 19, 2020

“Trump’s America Firstism recognized a preexisting condition; it did not create it….
Biden… understands the strength that lies in America’s global network of allies and in the institutions the US has built and led to manage trade, financial volatility, global health, nuclear proliferation, and more. But Biden’s decades in government and the policies he has proposed over the past year give cause for a different concern. He seems to imagine a return to the vanished world of the cold war, with Washington “back at the head of the table.” He has promised, for example, to quickly convene a global Climate Summit and a Summit for Democracy, with the US somehow forcing progress by exercising “moral authority” it no longer possesses in either domain….
Such a return to policies of the past is destined to fail…
To succeed as president, Biden would have to do what no one has yet done: for the first time in decades define a new approach to international affairs that reflects current global challenges as well as American resources, influence, and political will “- Jessica T. Mathews

“Just as it has in Brussels, Dublin has repeatedly leveraged its influence in Washington to outflank the more powerful U.K. It relies on U.S. lawmakers across the political divide whose family histories are often rooted in Ireland’s troubled past with Britain. Many are veterans of the peace process that ended three decades of violence in Northern Ireland.
Britain remains a vital U.S. ally and Johnson was the first leader in Europe that Biden spoke to after winning the election.”

“a memo … on Biden’s position on Ireland specifically mentioned its role as a possible partner to the US at the Security Council. As the only non-permanent member on the body from the EU, Ireland can work as a conduit between Washington and Brussels on issues such as Iran and climate change….
But the special relationship between the Irish-American former vice-president and the Government in Dublin does not come without challenges. Ireland disagrees with the US on several key issues, not least the Middle East, where Ireland’s pro-Palestinian stance is often at odds with that of Washington – in Democrat as well as Republican administrations….
managing the sometimes competing interests of Washington and Brussels will be a delicate balancing act as Ireland finds itself at the centre of global decision-making in the next two years.”


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