Wednesday, 5 December 2018

EU, UK and the Republic of Ireland

As detailed in many previous posts, I believe  that no deal which could be contrived between the EU and the UK outside the EU could be anywhere near as good as we already have if the UK remains inside the EU, so  I  haven't bothered my head with all the minutiae of the alternatives, be  they Norway+, Norway ++, Canada + or whatever.

However, I am increasingly concerned that the apparent impasse over the "Irish Backstop" is being portrayed by the government and their supporting media  as an intransigent EU behaving unreasonably and frustrating the legitimate aims of the UK.

This is nonsense.

The "Backstop," as I understand it, is an arrangement whereby Northern Ireland will continue to shadow  many of the EU regulations unless and until some technological or other method evolves whereby goods leaving Northern Ireland for the Republic can be checked elsewhere than the border.

The UK want to be able to decide unilaterally when this aspiration is achieved.

The EU says it must be a joint decision.

Which seems to me to be very reasonable.

For  the EU in this context read "the Government of Ireland."  They, and the people of the Republic, are just as  much concerned for the effects of the new situation, if and when it is achieved, as the people of Northern Ireland, (and the UK government acting on their behalf.)

A premature unilateral decision which is ineffective could lead to a return  of the hard border and thus the Troubles. and the (relative)  peace which has existed since the Good Friday Agreement, of which the EU is a guarantor, could be dissipated.  The people of the Republic are naturally desperate to avoid this and thus anxious that no alleged "solution" should introduced without their agreement.

Naturally, they are backed by the other 26 members who will remain in the EU, becasue they are members of the Club, and that's what Club members do: support each other.

And so should we.

The people of the Republic of Ireland are our "kith and kin."  (Remember how that phrase was bandied about by the Tories in the Rhodesia crisis in the high-and-far-off days of the Harold Wilson?)  Not only that, until less than a hundred years ago they were our fellow citizens.  They still have freedom of movement into and out of the UK without even passports,  and even the right to vote in our elections if they choose to live here. If they want something special they are probably of all the citizens of the EU the most entitled to it.

But their demands are not special: they are legitimate and common sense.  The EU is not using the "Irish Backstop" as a device to bully or trap the UK: they are merely defending the peace and security of  of their members


  1. A premature unilateral decision which is ineffective could lead to a return of the hard border and thus the Troubles

    To return to the Troubles would be entirely the choice of the terrorists. All they have to do to avoid a return to the Troubles is refrain from murdering people. That isn't that hard.

    To make fear of that the basis of policy is to give in to terrorism.

    That is why it is unacceptable.

    Keeping the border as easy to cross as possible is a desirable end, if only to help out those who, say, live on one side of it and work on the other. And, frankly, it shouldn't be that hard: the EU has other open land borders, such as the France/Switzerland border.

    However it is not something that must happen at any cost and it should not be allowed to override the implementation of the referendum result.

    1. As far as I know there aren't any terrorists wanting to forcibly unite France with Switzerland or vice-versa. Not recreating a situation which might re-ignite grievances in the island of Ireland is not "giving in to terrorists" - it is sensible pragmatism (something for which the Tories used to be admired.)

    2. . Not recreating a situation which might re-ignite grievances in the island of Ireland is not "giving in to terrorists"

      If I don't do something for the sole reason that someone threatens violence to me or others if I do it, how is that not giving in to their threat of violence?

      If I do it and they carry out their threat, doesn't the entire moral responsibility for the violence that ensues rest on the person who chose to threaten it and then carried it out?

  2. The EU's legitimate support for the Irish republic's interests throughout the process contrasts sharply with the arrogant disregard of the UK for Scotland's interests. The elected government of Eire has had a central role in shaping the negotiating position of the EU, while Scotland's parliament has been ignored and had powers unilaterally grabbed from it by the UK. The terms of Scotland's membership of the UK are not those promised in 2014. It is clear which union treats small Celtic nations as equal members of the Club and which treats them as a colony. The time is approaching for the people of Scotland to choose which to remain in and which to leave.

    The UK is a fundamentally illiberal and anachronistic way to organise a union of nations and has shown itself to be too resistant to reform. The Liberal Democrats, in seeking to preserve it, are on the wrong side of history.


    1. Thanks Al (I presume you're a different "Anonymous" to the first commenter.)
      I've a good deal of sympathy for your point of view: it is absurd that Scotland, which voted almost two to one to remain in the EU, should be dragged out of it because of the English. (Northern Ireland and Gibraltar too)

      Given that we had a referendum ( and I think we shouldn’t have) there should have been a proviso that all four constituent parts (five if you include Gibraltar) should be in favour of a change for the result to be operative. That was one of the several flaws in the EU Referendum Act

      Personally I should be sorry to see Scotland leave the UK. I would prefer complete domestic Home Rule, as was proposed by the Liberals for Ireland towards the end of the 19th century and beginning of the last one. Each time the proposals were blocked by the Tories. Serves them right if they are now hoist with their own petard.

      In the future I'd like to see complete domestic autonomy for all the constituent parts of the UK (including Yorkshire!) with the UK parliament government’s responsibilities restricted to foreign affairs,, defence, the currency (until we join the Euro,) and equalisation grants to and from those constituent parts.
      Failing that, if Scotland does become independent, I expect it will apply to rejoin the EU, and I shall search diligently for a Scots ancestor so that I can rejoin with you. (I’ve climbed 14 Monroes: would that help?)