We have to prepare for the worst

Colm is in good form in the Independent today. I had exactly the same response to the BBC programme on Brexit as he did.

There are at least three reasons why I think an “off the cliff” Brexit is the most likely outcome.

First, and most importantly, an “off the cliff” Brexit is what the hard Brexiteers want: a break with the EU that is as clean and as unambiguous as possible. And they are currently driving the show. Arguments about economic interest have no impact on this group: for them, it is all about sovereignty, as they see it.

Second, the key Brexit ministers are clearly not on top of their brief. They assure us that jumping off the cliff will be fine, and then it emerges that they haven’t studied what its consequences would be: it is surreal stuff. Check out this clip of Brexit minister Davis, if you haven’t already, and remember: this is the man tasked with negotiating Brexit.

Third, while UK civil servants are very competent, there are only so many of them. If all off the shelf transitional arrangements are ruled out on theological grounds (having to do for example with the ECJ) then it is hard to see how bespoke arrangements can be sorted out within two years, even if ministers understand what needs to be done, and even if they want to do it.

Hopefully I will be proved wrong, but we have to assume the worst and prepare for it. That means not putting all our intellectual, political and administrative energy into fighting amongst ourselves as to what the best deal should be: there may not be one at all, simply because the UK doesn’t want one or isn’t capable of delivering it. It means thinking about the people who will be hurt — people working in small businesses exporting to the UK, primarily, but also people living in border regions — and about how the State and the EU can help them to adjust.* It means targeting every British food processing firm that may find itself at a competitive disadvantage in the EU post-2019 and seeing if they can be induced to invest in Ireland (outside Dublin, which is where we will need the jobs). It means becoming more granular: listening more to the industries involved, and solving specific problems one at a time. It means the rest of us abandoning the “I’m alright Jack” mentality that often pervades Irish discourse, and all of us realising that we really are in this together.

*And, even though I guess it is special pleading, spare a thought for cross-border workers. The pre-1973 CTA won’t be enough, I imagine, to replicate current arrangement.


Update: Wolfgang Münchau takes the polar opposite view, here. Hopefully he is correct!




26 replies on “We have to prepare for the worst”

I am not sure what is meant by ‘the worst’.

Presumably, by ‘the worst’ outcome is meant a very hard Brexit.

But, this will lead to the dissolution of the U. Kingdom, a United Ireland and an independent Scotland.

That outcome would actually be ‘the best’. Bring it on!

The Irish government (whichever parties it is) should stop wasting time looking for minor modifications to various EU rules to make it easier for cross-border commerce on the island to continue within the overall constitutional arrangements. Not that there is anything wrong with this. But, we’re in a bigger ballgame now. Things have moved on. There should be no distractions from the main goal.

The Irish government (whichever parties it is) now needs to go the whole hog and make an all-out effort to end partition once and for all. Now is the hour. It should enlist the support of Irish-America to achieve this goal. To achieve the goal, It should also maintain the closest possible relations with the current American government, not withstanding that the Dublin 4 elites hate it. There was a report yesterday that the current American government sees Ireland as its main ally in the EU post-Brexit. Why wouldn’t it support a United Ireland in that context (even if it can’t say so publicly)? The current American government is more ‘Irish’ than any in history. Saint Patrick’s Day showed it. Ireland needs to utilise this to achieve its historic goal of ending partition. Ireland needs a government that will put ‘Ireland First’ in the same way as the current American government puts ‘America First. All those Dublin 4 loony-liberal media commentators and academics who would like Ireland to take part in some sort of culture war against the current American government should be told to get lost. The half-Irish Mike Pence should be invited to Sligo and the border regions as soon as possible to see for himself the damage that partition does. And the half-Scottish Donald Trump should also be invited. Apparently Donald thinks that GCHQ have been spying on him. I have no idea if they have (although it wouldn’t surprise me), but, if he thinks that, so much the better. It will make him all the more likely to view the dissolution of the U. Kingdom favourably.

The Irish government (whichever parties it is) should also openly declare its support for an independent Scotland and promise that, once Scotland is independent, Ireland will do everything necessary to facilitate its entry to the EU. To oppose Scotland’s independence on the grounds that it might be a competitor would be shortsighted and foolish. Every country is a potential competitor, but also a potential ally. It will be much more difficult for Germany, France and the high-tax Nordic countries to push Ireland around on the Corporation Tax front if (a) Ireland has 7 million population instead of 5 million and (b) independent Scotland is also pursuing a similar policy. The Irish government (whichever parties it is) should invite the leaders of the Scottish government to Dublin for talks on forming a united front.

Recent events have vindicated what I’ve been posting here since 2009. I’ve always said that the U. Kingdom is a sham, that it is really just another name for England, with N. Ireland, Scotland and Wales counting for nothing. Brexit has proved it. And the day after Brexit I posted here that the vote was a manifestation of English nationalism when many others on here were pushing the idea that it was an uprising of the downtrodden proletariat against rising inequality. The ones I feel sorry for (or rather I don’t) are the West Brit media commentators and academics who for years have been peddling a belief in the superior judgement of the London governing class, whose hard-headedness, and common sense was supposed to be in contrast to the wild emotionalism of the Celts. It doesn’t look like that now. The sole argument for maintaining the U. Kingdom is that, while part of the U. Kingdom, N. Ireland, Scotland and Wales have ended up with such rubbish economies that they can’t afford to leave, But, the experience of the Republic of Ireland, the one part that actually did leave, shows that this argument is a nonsense.

As for the post UK-dissolution situation with Ireland and Scotland (and hopefully Wales at a later date) in the EU and England leaving, I have no problem, Once it gives up trying to rule the Celtic countries, I will wish England well and will fully support their right to choose to be in the EU or not, whichever they prefer. Good luck to them. Its their business and Ireland, Scotland or Wales shouldn’t interfere. One beneficial aspect of the dissolution of the U. Kingdom will be a reduction in Anglophobia among the Celts. I watched yesterday’s rugby in the company of a group of Scotsmen. They were almost delirious with joy when the final whistle sounded at the Aviva Stadium, even though that result was actually bad for Scotland. One of them told me (admittedly he’d been drinking all afternoon) that he’d rather ISIS won the Grand Slam than England. That sort of attitude isn’t healthy, but it will continue and get even more pronounced as long as the artificial entity called the U. Kingdom continues to exist.

Recently I moved to a large open-plan office for almost two weeks while finishing a particular report. That office had a radio playing tuned to RTE Radio 1. I couldn’t believe the relentless negativity all day long on every topic in the news. The poor standard of journalism was also a surprise; presenters continually teeing-up interviewees for the required response. I had to get noise-cancelling headphones in the end in order to complete my report and preserve my sanity. It is probably the nature of news and print media to constantly dwell on the negative. I have my own views on a possible United Ireland and an independent Scotland but I do agree that there is almost panic in the media ranks to rush and rule out a United Ireland. For the sake of balance you would think there’d be arguments published in favour. You’d certainly have to think that tourism and entrepreneurship would benefit but are the Unionist population so wedded to the idea of Empire and having earned their honour by being cannon fodder for that Empire at the Somme that they couldn’t possibly accept any link with RoI?

Ultimately, as I think happened in Scotland the last time, people will vote with their pockets rather than their hearts and arguments that people will be worse off in the short term will always win out.

Patrick Cockburn is on the same wavelength ….

One of the curiosities of the Brexit referendum was that, while the Leaves frequently beat the patriotic drum and spoke of the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 and the Battle of Britain in 1940, they showed little interest in or knowledge of history. Before the eighteenth century, English governments spent much of their energies and resources fighting the Scots, Irish and Welsh. In the years before Agincourt, Henry V learned to be a soldier suppressing Welsh uprisings. Scottish and Irish rebellions played a central role in precipitating and determining the outcome of the English Civil War. An end to this disunity through repression or conciliation launched Britain as a great power. A return to instability in relations between the nations living in the British Isles will have the opposite effect.


Martin McGuinness, Patriot, Volunteer, Peacemaker, Statesman, R.I.P.

FYI Colm’s points are behind a paywall.

Anyone have any views about what the shortcomings of the CTA would be vs current arrangements?

Thanks Grumpy — it wasn’t behind a paywall this morning! and indeed I can still access it for free. Curious.

I guess I am thinking of EU rules about social security in particular — none of that would have existed I am guessing prior to 1973 in the context of the CTA. Perhaps I am wrong. But in any event, these are things that would need to be replicated in the context of Brexit.

Truly flattered the Sindo is seeking to monetise me. Here’s the full text, sorry for the length.

The British government secured House of Commons support for its Article 50 notification bill, subsequently approved by the Lords and given the royal assent, on Monday last. On the same day the Scottish first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, called for a fresh referendum on independence from the United Kingdom. It looks like a second referendum will have to be conceded (the first failed on a 55/45 vote in September 2014) since the UK government’s plans for a hard Brexit change the calculus for Scotland. Whenever the vote is taken the separatists will argue that the decisions to leave both single market and customs union, not on the ballot paper when 62% of Scots voted to stay in the European Union last June, have increased the costs for Scotland of staying in the United Kingdom. There is already a row about the timing, with Theresa May’s government seeking to delay the vote until British exit has been accomplished, while Ms. Sturgeon wants an earlier poll.

Irish sympathy for Scottish independence is another case of ‘be careful what you wish for’. An independent Scotland readmitted to the EU would be a direct competitor for inward investment, while the UK government will be less willing to battle for an open border in Ireland since it would set a precedent, enhancing separatist arguments in Scotland.

But the most alarming feature of the past week was the continuing avalanche of utterly misplaced optimism from prominent Tories about Britain’s prospects outside the EU. Monday was Commonwealth Day, marked with a service at Westminster Abbey and dangerously rosy professions of faith that lost trade in Europe can be replaced through better deals with Britain’s former colonies. This is pie in the sky. The Commonwealth ceased to be a functioning trade bloc for Britain seventy years ago and nowadays absorbs less than 10% of Britain’s exports. The Commonwealth as an alternative to Europe was rejected by analysts at the UK Treasury back in the 1960s during the debates on Britain’s initial attempts to join the Common Market.

Hugo Young, in his 1998 history (This Blessed Plot) of Britain’s early relations with the post-war European project, dismissed what he called the ‘blinding emptiness’ of the Commonwealth argument. He wrote: ‘Insofar as the Commonwealth was seen, in any scenario, as an alternative basis for Britain’s economic future, this vision was pitifully false. The trade figures indicated it then, the subsequent history proved it afterwards. One may accord a degree of sympathy to the errors of politicians at any given time, but less so when the source of the error is a reluctance, through sentiment or pain or misbegotten pressure or sheer intellectual feebleness, to acknowledge the harshness of facts that palpably will not change: facts, moreover, that were well documented by Whitehall departments which had shed their own illusions before 1961’. It is disheartening to have to listen, almost sixty years later, and twenty years after Hugo Young’s verdict, to nostalgic waffle about Commonwealth trade opportunities.

The BBC2 documentary Brexit: Britain’s Biggest Deal, aired on several occasions over the last fortnight, contained some further examples of intellectual feebleness. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson expressed his customary sunny optimism, unsupported by practical arguments of any kind, about British trade prospects post-Brexit. But the scariest contribution came from Iain Duncan Smith, a former Conservative Party leader and cabinet minister until last year, now a voluble backbench Brexiteer. He believes that the EU will be motivated to offer Britain a good free trade deal, despite the decision to quit the single market. There are, he asserted, one million car workers in Bavaria alone dependent on exports to the UK whose jobs are on the line. Accordingly the German government will, in its own interest, offer generous trade terms to Britain the better to defend this enormous number of jobs.

There is indeed a sizeable car industry in Bavaria, according to the websites of the Bavarian government and the industry association. The automotive sector employs 197,000 Bavarians in total. The German volume producers (Volkswagen and Opel) have their biggest operations elsewhere but BMW and MAN, the commercial vehicle builder, are Munich-based. About one in eight of the vehicles built in Germany are sold in the United Kingdom, so roughly 25,000 Bavarian jobs would be on the line if trade in vehicles between Britain and Germany ceased altogether. There would be job losses in Britain too, since Britain also has a sizeable export trade. This was not mentioned by Mr. Duncan Smith. Of course trade would not cease entirely and the default tariff of 9.8% would not deter all BMW enthusiasts. Bavarian companies would also try to divert production to markets other than Britain. So there could well be some Bavarian job losses, perhaps 10 or 15 thousand. But not a round million, five times the current employment level.

My point is not that Iain Duncan Smith is a fool. The point is that he is happy to offer sweeping reassurances about the consequences of a hard Brexit on national television without the slightest genuflection to the facts, including facts readily available courtesy of Google. Nor is he being deliberately deceitful, knowing full well that his statements are hugely at variance with reality. It would appear that he neither knows nor cares: reality simply does not impinge, and he does not know because he does not care.
In 1986 the Princeton philosopher Harry Frankfurt published a much-cited essay entitled On Bullshit. Lamenting the preponderance of vaporous waffle in modern political discourse, Frankfurt sought to define terms. His key point is that bullshit is an identifiable phenomenon to be distinguished from truth or deliberate falsehood. To the bullshitter the truth or falsity of a statement does not need to be checked, since it is immaterial. What matters is the impression created in the minds of the audience, who may be poorly equipped with factual information or in search of something else, empathy or confirmation of hunches. In this nomenclature Iain Duncan Smith is a bullshitter rather than a liar.

There has been conscious lying too in the Brexit debate, but the current journalistic obsession with fact-checking is not enough. Some of the participants are operating in the Trumpian post-fact dimension and it is the duty of the BBC and the serious media generally to identify separately the bullshitters, or simply to make an editorial decision to deny them voice on the grounds of implausibility. The sports programmes would not retain a contributor who insisted that Andorra are a serious fancy for the next World Cup. If Iain Duncan Smith cannot be bothered to check readily available information, what kind of editorial policy inflicts this unchallenged nonsense on the public?

There are some actual grown-ups in the Conservative party. Another former party leader, William Hague, was happy to acknowledge on the same BBC programme that the Brexit negotiations will be a nightmare, long, complex and contentious. Hague has retired to the Lords while the Brexiteer ministers continue to wing it, exuding breezy nonchalance and, one fears, riding for a fall.
EU politicians, conscious that the post-war European settlement is under threat, must be feeling mounting irritation with the persistent lack of seriousness in London.

” and all of us realising that we really are in this together.”

If the great recession proved anything in Ireland, it proved comprehensively that, exhortations aside, we were definitely not all in this together.
The subsequent political fracturing gave evidence to that, and however many were taken in by the exhortations last time round, the feeling and experience of abandonment by the inner protected circles is too immediate and too raw, to ensure against any serious heed being given to such exhortations, however well meant, this time round.

That said, getting down to serious contingency arrangements should have started, if not immediately after June 23, then most certainly after Theresa May’s Lancaster House speech.

At a very worthwhile AIB Brexit seminar in Limerick last Novermber, the views expressed by Denis Brosnan, ex Kerry Foods, were instructive. His view was that it was better to have a going concern business, albeit not perhaps in the ROI, than to be a principled but redundant individual walking the streets of his or her native Irish town. To paraphrase, if I may, ‘save thyself and save your business’, by whatever means necessary.

At that same meeting a representative from the Hauliers Association made an impassioned plea, that his members would not be left to queue at Dover, as they were during a strike in 2015?, and again in 2016. Has there been any discussion, or motorway improvement plans to ports for direct access to the continent? I have not read of any!
Perhaps it will be all right on the day!

And having watched David Davis being filleted, spectacles on and spectacles off, by Hilary Benn and others, perhaps sanity and an EFTA arrangement might eventually emerge from the impending shambles.


“Now is your chance”, Churchill is reported to have written to DeValera, in a very late night note following the Pearl Harbour bombing. Your post has similar echos!

However, the reluctant arrival of one million people of unionist persuasion into a ‘united’ Ireland and a Dublin which had only one anti-aircraft gun for the defence of the entire city of Dublin, seems to have persuaded DeValera not to take the ‘chance’ presented, at that time.
But you correct on one point, the political tectonic plates are shifting, and Lady Longshanks is unlikely to be able to hammer the Scots, as Edward Longshanks once did.

Pascal Lamy on the topic (about 10 minutes in).


N.B. In particular, the statement from David Davis read out at the end of the interview. (Davis himself declined to be interviewed). It refers to a “framework”, not an FTA, being agreed in the two year period, a subtle but vital shift in the UK position (already signaled by May in her post European Council press conference).

There is also an apparent contradiction in what Lamy himself says in that he first says that the issue of the reciprocal status of EU27 and UK citizens will be agreed in conjunction with the other major issue of the costs of the divorce agreement and then comments, in the context of a discussion of the length of time FTAs take to negotiate, that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”. But the clear assumption is that a “continuation” agreement, in the eyes of the EU27, and a “transition” agreement, in the eyes of the British, will be needed before the detail of the “access” to the EU’s internal market can be thrashed out in the form of an FTA, this agreement being an essential element of the “framework”, presumably agreed at the level of the European Council (as was the case with the aborted deal negotiated by Cameron).

It may also be noted that, in effect, all the agreements cited can be negotiated at the level of the EU institutions i.e. not requiring FORMAL ratification at a national level, a point of evident enormous negotiating importance to the UK. The only exceptions that would arise would be in the case of so called “mixed agreements” in the context of the trade negotiations requiring agreement both by national parliaments (remember the Walloons in the case of Canada!) and the European Parliament. (Agreements can, no doubt, be structured to take account of this, especially as the ECJ is shortly to issue a judgement clarifying the legal situation in the case of the FTA with Singapore).

In sum: it is far too early to come to any conclusions as to where the negotiations will end up and certainly to assume that the gung-ho elements in the UK cabinet will win out.

Improving RO-RO direct links to the Continent might, however, be a suitable precaution, even at this early stage.

Joseph Ryan
“Has there been any discussion, or motorway improvement plans to ports for direct access to the continent? I have not read of any!”

I and others have written on this in the Irish Examiner. The Irish exporters association are banging on about it regularly. Meanwhile the government is arguing over the leadership equivalent of daddy or chips

While on the subject of ports, which I agree is important:

If we’re taking about trade between Ireland and France or the Mediterranean countries, then obviously Dublin, Rosslare, Waterford and Cork are the best options. As I’m rarely down there I’m not au fait with whether or not there are motorways to these ports. I was under the impression there were motorways from Dublin to Cork and Waterford. It shouldn’t require much effort to extend the motorways from the cities to the ports (if not already done so). Last time I travelled via Rosslare (about 10 years ago), I think it was motorway or dual carriageway most of the way from Dublin.

However, what might not be obvious to some is that for trade between Ireland and the Netherlands, Belgium, most of Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, most of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, the shortest route from Ireland is via Belfast/Larne or Derry, across Scotland and the North Sea. All the more reason for a United Ireland and an independent Scotland. If both those happened, then this shortest route would be entirely within the EU and there would be no need to think of Ireland as being isolated.

As for independent Scotland being a competitor to Ireland: (a) being in the Union has left Scotland with a large budget deficit (10% of GDP) – it would be at least a decade before an independent Scotland could match Ireland’s tax rates (b) Ireland’s results in PISA tests in recent years have been far ahead of Scotland’s (c) unlike Ireland, Scotland is in demographic decline – its birth rate collapsed decades ago and it currently has more deaths than births. An independent Scotland will gradually improve its situation compared with being in the Union, but it will be many years before it can grow as fast as Ireland.

Wolfgang Munchau has a rather silly article in the FT. This thread comment is worth a read.

GIEconomist 20 hours ago

“Regarding the notion “that the EU needs to punish the UK to set a disincentive for others to leave”:

That is NOT the issue. The issue is that the EU needs to PREVENT a leaving country from being REWARDED by the exit itself, i.e. by largely keeping the benefits of membership while no longer living up to the obligations that come with EU membership. The balance of benefits and liabilities must not be upset, while both their levels can of course move up or down in parallel. Europe can always live with diverging levels of integration from one country to another, but NOT with the integration of benefits being out of kilter with the integration of liabilities and obligations to the union. This already became apparent with the Eurozone debt crisis which at its core is rooted in some (mostly Southern European) countries taking advantage of much lower interest rates and a more stable currency while trying to dodge the price of needing to provide for sounder public finances than in the past (Stability Pact).”


The EU is an organisation where countries have agreed to exercise some -rather limited and mainly economic – sovereign prerogatives in common. It is not a federation where a departing member is about to break up into its component parts and sub-parts. The sooner certain political leaders both in Ireland and Scotland grasp this obvious point the better.

Sean Whelan’s recent article on the Swiss Model (making up ground on the outside, camouflaged as New UK – EU Partnership) is also of interest.


I am becoming increasingly fearful listening to Irish politicians and commentators congratulating our Government and civil Service on their approach to Brexit when we are yet to see one proposal for mitigating actions (by Ireland or the EU to assist Ireland) floated.

If I am not mistaken, Irish politicians and civil servants seem to consider that it is sufficient to tell everybody about how much trouble we are in if a deal is not done. Quite frankly, I don’t think our politicians are capable of any better than this. This approach would be ok if a some structural funds or a debt holiday would solve the problem, i.e. if a macro measure by the EU to ease the pain were sufficient. It isn’t sufficient to address the wholesale destruction of businesses and the imposition of significant non-trade barriers which only our country will be subject to (in terms of the optimal transport routes being across a non-EU country).

As Kevin O’Rourke suggests, we are desperately in need of a granular approach and none is evident. One reason for this is that large parts of our Civil Service only know how to pay lip service to consultation. Another reason is that the Government is not sending out the message to the Civil Service that we need all ideas we can get got mitigating measures. Our politicians, or at least our Ministers, simply aren’t programmed that way. (It doesn’t help that we have a Taoiseach with no demonstrable ability to get a grasp of important details).

What annoys me most of all is the idea that Ireland cannot come up with any ideas until we know what the UK wants. This is very much the lazy-man’s excuse. It is finding a reason not to do work and not doing it. A battle plan may not survive contact with the enemy but that is no justification for having no plan. Our problem is that not only are our politicians lazy but much of our media is even lazier (with some honourable exceptions). They prefer to ask inane questions about theoretical coalitions than to address the details of the problems of the day.

We already know that the UK does not know what it ultimately wants but we have the broad brush strokes. We also know that the EU27, and not the UK, will be in the stronger negotiating position and will dictate its terms for the UK to accept or reject. We should be coming up with proposals to dictate those EU terms now, and we should also be looking for special assistance from the EU Commission given our inability to ramp up our resources within the civil service for this challenge. It is unbelievable that the German Government has set up structures for dealing with Brexit but we, who face far worse consequences, have not. We are told that Enda or Simon or Leo are going to look after all that. Personally I would like to see Michael McGrath TD, Bertie Ahern, John Bruton and even Enda Kenny when he is fired all involved in an FF Government Brexit Department. It is time to get real about our approach to this monumental problem.

“The Irish exporters association are banging on about it [motorway improvement plans to ports for direct access to the continent] regularly.”

How about these folk start to put their own monies into the construction of their own Turnpikes? Afterall – every true believing economist knows with absolute certainty that efficient private investment should always be used to crowd out inefficient taxpayer investments. Yes? Yeah – I thought not.

I think that us Irish taxpayers have had enough of so-called private sector investments – it costs us, again, again and again, in bail-ins or whatever form of tax booddoggles and avoidance scams they (our Governments and the vested interests) dream up.

As for this Brexit mess. Its lovely watching the politicians doing their Harry Houdini impressions: whole new concept in Reality TV. As our friendly EU enemies might say (very sotto voce, of course) – “You may enjoy any sort of freedom you wish – as long as its our sort of freedom.” Indeed.

It has just been announced that the UK will trigger Brexit on March 29th, over 9 months after the referendum result. To date the main impact has been on sterling, which has pushed up UK inflation. In Ireland, the impact is also most discernible in terms of consumer prices; Ireland’s inflation rate is much lower than the EA average, with food prices still falling sharply, in contrast to rises elsewhere across Europe.

People crave certainty but in this case there is not much of that, particularly as the post Brexit trade relationship will be determined by 27 EU governments ( not Juncker) , each seeking to secure their respective national interest. Moreover, we do not know at this stage who will be in government in a number of countries, including Germany, France, Holland, and possibly Spain and Italy. Ireland, too, could well have a different administration before the two-year period is over.

What does seem reasonably clear is that the UK ( i.e. including Northern Ireland and Scotland) will ultimately be out of the single market and the customs Union and that the next two years will involve negotiations about the terms of exit and the shape of an interim trade arrangement. For Ireland, its not time for fantasies, but a cool, rational response to what develops, in order to best secure our national interest. At the moment, for example, contrast the government’s enthusiasm for attracting foreign financial institutions into Ireland with the Central bank’s attitude. If the last few years is anything to go by, it is also fanciful to think the EU will offer us anything in the way of some special deal.

On the widely touted idea of appointing a dedicated minister or other grand panjandrum to direct Ireland’s negotiating efforts, the list of chapter headings in the acquis would temper the enthusiasm of any candidates for the job.


Driving a trailer through the gates of the EU is difficult enough, reversing it out is immeasurably more so, especially as it is being attempted for the first time. The main national problem is for the owner of the trailer. The concern of the EU27 is to prevent damage to the gates.

This being the case, the treaties provide for a trained advisor; the Commission. The opposite numbers of the skilled staff in that organisation are in the technical ministries of the member states, headed by ministers who are members of their governments, headed by their prime minister or head of state, the only national representative with access to the final court of arbitration in the matter of Brexit, the European Council (as specifically provided for in Article 50).

Janan Ganesh is also excellent on the delusions of the Davis-Johnson-Fox team:

In terms of Kevin’s specific recommendations, the simplest option would be to add Brexit to the IDA;s mandate, the state body most used to thinking about targeted support both in terms of areas and industries, and the least prone to political capture.

The money shot :

“look at what these ministers have achieved as manipulators of public debate. Over the past year, the terms on which Britain will leave have been talked down on such a fine gradient that even vigilant observers of politics are only semi-conscious of how far the country has been led. As an opening pitch, voters were told that Britain could retain single-market membership without its corollary burdens. Norway and Switzerland have tried for the same Utopia but our superior size would clinch it. When Leavers were disabused of this dream, they spoke of “access” to the market and zero barriers for traded goods. German exporters, blessed with supernatural lobbying powers that somehow failed to soften European sanctions on Russia, would persuade the EU of the mutual interest in such an arrangement.

When even this diminished plan ran into trouble, when it became clear that Britain’s desire for bilateral dealmaking power could not be accommodated inside the customs union, Leavers fell back on a formal trade relationship with the EU instead. Britain would do business with Europe as Canada does, as if geography had been abolished and the access terms enjoyed by a nation 4,000km away would serve for a nation whose physical and economic orientation is to the continent. That seemed to be the last recourse. But now ministers are trying to normalise the idea of total exit without a trade pact. Mr Johnson says this would not be “by any means as apocalyptic as some people like to pretend” (roll up, roll up for a future that stops short of apocalypse) and Mr Davis describes it as “not harmful”. Economists disagree with him but politicians are allowed to question their record of clairvoyance. What they are not allowed is a pardon for a solid year’s worth of promissory slippage: from single market membership to a commodious niche in the customs union to a trade deal to absolute severance. Even if they are right that Britain can prosper in its principal market as a World Trade Organization member, this was never their vision.At every stage, they overpromise. At every stage, reality finds them out”

Brexit is the purest groupthink

It’s unclear how much the big food and drinks companies export to the UK from Ireland. This is important as these are the firms that are best equipped to respond to changing market conditions.

Kerry Group has about 25 production units in Great Britain and its UK revenues account for 26% of group turnover. The Americas account for 43% of revenues and Irish revenues at €429m in 2016 amounted to 7% of annual revenues.

Glanbia’s UK revenues accounted for less than 3% of 2016 turnover and 61% of revenues came from the US. Irish sales of €620m accounted for 22% of 2016 turnover.

Greencore, the former Irish Sugar Co., sells less than 4% of revenues in Ireland and apparently has no production there.
Ireland has only two fisheries processing firms with revenues of over €50m and indigenous processing is about 5% of total catch in Irish waters while an estimated 80% of exports are commodity traded.

The Government published a 10-year “plan” for food in 2015 which details 427 actions but no credible strategy was outlined.


Edgar Morgenroth of the ESRI had an article on a united Ireland in the Irish Times last week:


This was my comment:

Ireland in 2014 was in the 19th rank for prices-adjusted net household disposable income and 22% below the OECD average in one measure of individual standard of living — the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development comprises 25 of the world’s rich countries and 10 emerging economies. 


Unlike Germany in the early 1990s, we are not a wealthy country — data for 2015 showed we were still poorer than Italy on a per capita basis, despite the latter’s decade of stagnation — and Eurostat regional data for 2013 (latest ) show that price adjusted disposable income (purchasing power standards based on final consumption per inhabitant) was at 13,800 for Ireland and 13,700 for NI. 

This is a more useful comparison of standards of living than GDP per capita. 

The euro per inhabitant net disposable income without an adjustment for price differences, was €16,700 for Irl and €15,800 for NI. 

In contrast with Germany in the 1990s where many big indigenous firms could invest in the former communist-run East, both north and south in Ireland are over-reliant on US-led foreign direct investment (FDI), at a time when that model is likely to change in coming years. 

Who is actually driving Brexit?
The lunatic fringe of the Tory Party.

Who wants to be outside the single market?
They want to be outside the single market because being in it means accepting the jurisdiction of the ECJ (and, politically, free movement of persons).

Because their obsession with sovereignty has deluded their tiny minds.

Who with power in the real economy wants to be out? I think it is about slashing worker protection and driving down costs. Who is behind Liam Fox ?

These are the really important questions.
Whose wrote the agenda for the anti-EU press in the UK for the past 30 years? To whose benefit?
If Brexit is seemingly a result of resurgent english nationalism, what gave rise to the resurgence?
As a hard Brexit will be a real economic loser, and it is still being pursued, who stands to gain?

Whose money is behind Liam Fox, and others, and how will they benefit.
[ref George Monbiot recently in Guardian]

There has to be a real suspicion that the hard Brexit agenda is about a worldwide labour free for all, and a breaking up of the welfare state, a long 30 year plus agenda, set, run and financed by very powerful unacountable individuals, using the press and media as the main propaganda tools.

Brexit will be a betrayal of the people in places like Stoke and Sunderland who voted Leave

Barnier in the FT


“We agree with Theresa May in her call for a ‘bold and ambitious free-trade agreement’. Yes to ambition!” Mr Barnier said. But in a sign of the how difficult trade talks may become, he added: “This ambition will also apply to social welfare, tax, environmental and consumer protection standards to which our citizens are rightly attached.”

Fox and co want to slash those standards. The EU probably won’t let them.

In other news, the Daily Telegraph is fascinating these days. Groupthink Central.

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