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Is Brexit consuming too much political bandwidth – for what about Europe? December 3, 2021

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Paul Gillespie in the IT asks the following:

Ireland’s European policies after Brexit badly need more detailed examination and debate than they get during the current necessary preoccupation with Brexit. That crisis is accompanied by very high approval ratings in polls of Irish EU membership, stimulated by solidarity over the Northern Ireland Border. It draws on the older nationalist impulse to diminish dependence on Britain by linking up with Europe.

It’s a fair point. But the answer is that Brexit cannot but consume this island and this state. The border represents the only land border between the EU and the UK. Short of that political geography being amended – unthinkable at this point, it will consume and consume.

That said, for those of us for whom Europe is more than the EU, or who feel that the EU is a very imperfect mechanism and seek its ultimate replacement with some more progressive structures, he is absolutely correct.
In some ways this is a situation that is beginning to re-calibrate. Mentioned this very week the fact there are now 45 ferry links to the continent from Ireland, up from a quarter or so of them pre-Brexit. That alone is a, literal, sea-change. And there’s more. There always is.

Gillespie mentions a “conference of the Irish Association for Contemporary European Studies. Entitled “After Brexit, what next?” [which] raised them within an engaged perspective on EU membership, yet open to policy criticism.”

Good and not so great contributions to that to judge from his report (the current issue of the Phoenix also mentions this). One good – the danger of monoglot practice and lack of multilingualism (in European languages). Oddly some interesting contributions by Eoin Drea who argued for public social care services. Perhaps less cheering to read the following:


In the field of Irish military and defence policy Ben Tonra of UCD is a long-standing gadfly on Irish neutrality. It is amoral, often immoral and hypocritical, he said, and Nato membership is quite compatible with Irish values and interests. Responding, Charlie Flanagan, former minister and now chair of the Oireachtas committee on foreign affairs, said there is no public support for joining Nato, though he thinks the subject needs much more engaged debate.

I don’t understand why Irish neutrality is amoral or hypocritical. Indeed why is this charge not leveled against the other members of the EU who eschew membership of NATO? And Flanagan is absolutely correct – there’s no appetite for joining NATO.

But perhaps the most significant thought came from Naomi O’Leary who as IT Europe correspondent has done some good work over the last few years. This links back to the point at the top of this post as regards Brexit consuming too much space.

In her keynote speech to the conference, Irish Times Europe correspondent Naomi O’Leary strongly emphasised how influential British framing of EU issues is here, seen as an Irish journalist in Brussels.

She is rightly worried that future EU policy shocks will find Irish policymakers ill-prepared for public surprise and dissent.

This is a very real problem, where so much is refracted through perspectives shaped by London. Much of this is inevitable, the UK being the nearest power of significance. But it’s not the only one and the points raised by others all too often feed in in pernicious ways to this. A lack of familiarity with non-English or Anglo-sphere languages and perspectives (Drea’s point about approaches to social and socio-economic issues, even from his right of centre views is spot on in that regard). An unwillingness to see beyond Britain. Even an unwillingness to see how, as with Scotland, so much is changing within Britain.

This is a key strategic issue for this state and this island across the next quarter and half century. That sounds bombastic, almost pompous, but it’s no wrong, is it? And the question then comes to the fore, what tools and approaches are necessary in order to engage with this profitably?



1. NFB - December 3, 2021

I understand the argument about Irish neutrality being immoral, amoral or whatever word you want to use typically tends to be about Ireland not picking a “side” in terms west vs east narratives and allowing our defence interests to come into the orbit of other nations rather than doing anything ourselves. That and the triple-lock meaning Moscow and Beijing get a veto on what we do with our Army, or something to that effect. It’s an unsubtle approach to the issue really, by people who seem to have some kind of Small Dog Syndrome when it comes to Ireland’s geopolitical/military place in the world.

OK, yes, one of the reasons we are able to have this kind of policy is because we don’t have a land border with a neighbour like Russia say, but taking our physical location as given and not pretending that it’s different isn’t a moral fault.

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WorldbyStorm - December 3, 2021

“Small Dog Syndrome” – I like that phrase.

This is very much my feeling. The realities of our history, position, our size and indeed any military response we as a very small state could mount is such that everything becomes showboating. To me it’s like the complete non-argument for a fast jets. I’d love us to have a couple of squadrons just ‘cos. But for an island so small that they’d overcross it in a few minutes and any potential threat would still overwhelm us in no time at all it seems to me that my delight in having supersonic interceptors thunder overhead a few times a year is hardly reason enough to have them standing on an airfield most of the rest of the time doing very little. There’s more useful places to put any defensive expenditure – for example our navy, coastguard. In some ways it’s a bit like complaining that Iceland, that military titan, which has little more than a coastguard should have some sort of stealth air capacity. It makes literally no sense. And if Iceland is happy – as it is – to subcontract air defence ot NATO that’s their business but I see no reason for us to follow.


Alibaba - December 3, 2021

Here’s another syndrome about “neutrality”: Announce it and people can believe it’s actually happening. 

Many well-intentioned people from a broad political spectrum — not meaning CLRers — sow illusions in the myth that Ireland can be an honest broker contributing to international peace and security with our neutrality. Genuine peacekeeping does not happen in situations where sides are taken and dictates given by imperialist masters and their agents before the troops even arrive in the battle zone.

I’m also thinking of the Irish powers that are giving their fullest practical aid to the imperialist powers we are subjected to, for instance, airspace at Shannon and efforts elsewhere to enforce the will of the US. I side with those supporting Irish neutrality and every effort to maintain it while arguing for plenty more.

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