Using Ireland

I see that the government is changing its tone on Brexit and the border, and I welcome this whole-heartedly.

Life is too short to try to figure out what goes on inside the average Brexiteer’s head, but here is my best shot, as it relates to the Irish border.

Economics is all about choices, and consequently I have very little time for people who don’t realise that if, say, you eat a cake, you no longer have it. But as we know, the Brexiteers have refused to admit that their country does, in fact, have real and important choices to make.

In particular, if they want to avoid costly customs inspections, they need to remain members of the customs union. And if they want to avoid all the other border formalities and barriers to trade that existed before 1992, they have to remain members of the Single Market. If they exit both the customs union and the Single Market, this will inevitably reintroduce frictions of various sorts making trade with the EU more costly than at present, and this will remain true even after a free trade agreement is negotiated. For the whole point of the customs union and Single Market was to do away with those frictions.

So they have a choice, and it seems as though they are choosing to make trade more costly between the UK and the rest of the EU. That will have a variety of negative consequences for the UK economy. But to date, the UK government has been incapable of realising or at least admitting publicly that that is the choice they have made, since they are denying that you can’t both have your cake (leave the customs union and Single Market) and eat it (preserve frictionless trade with the EU). Perhaps they sincerely believe this — a scary thought. Or perhaps they just don’t want to admit it publicly, and given the many lies told during the Brexit campaign, you can understand why.

And this is where they hope that Ireland can help them. They tell us, hand on heart, that of course they want to avoid a Border, but what they really want is to leave the Single Market and customs union, and preserve frictionless trade with the entire EU. Which is, as said, impossible. But some of them apparently think that by shedding crocodile tears about the Irish border, they can achieve the impossible — by inducing the EU to turn a blind eye to smuggling across the border, thus undermining the EU customs regime and our consumer, environmental, and other safety standards. And of course, once the nonsense that technology can “solve” all border problems has been accepted in the Irish context, they hope that this will serve as a precedent for trade with the rest of the EU. Indeed, I have seen that argument made quite explicitly in the UK press, but since it’s Sunday I’m not going to spend an hour digging out the relevant quote.

But all that technology can do is lower (not eliminate) the Brexit-induced costs of legitimate UK-EU trade. It can’t stop illegitimate trade, which is why you really need border controls. And so we occasionally read British politicians and commentators tell us that the solution is of course going to involve a “light touch” approach towards smuggling, in effect “turning a blind eye” to it. Such suggestions are not only intellectually unserious, and unethical –since they amount to arguing that we should give a licence to organised crime to print money — but astonishingly politically naive. The UK is dealing with 27 other sovereign, democratic nations who aren’t going to allow their customs regime and regulatory standards be undermined, and their legal order upended, just to preserve the Brexiteers from the embarrassment that awaits them once the UK public figures out that cake, once eaten, is gone.

And so, as I say, I welcome the new tone coming from Merrion Street and Iveagh House. My best guess is that the hardline Brexiteers have never been interested in a special deal for Ireland per se, since they evidently don’t give a toss about the island, but that they have been hoping that Ireland can serve as the key unlocking a very, very special deal for the UK.

A deal so special that it is, in fact, impossible.

And I don’t think our country should let itself be used as the Brexiteers’ useful idiot.

 

 

 

 

47 thoughts on “Using Ireland”

  1. There are several separate issues that need to be disentangled.

    First, in so far as Brexit affects the British economy adversely. This may or may not prove to be the case, but I fail to see why Ireland should worry. If it makes Britain less wealthy relative to Ireland. this will increase the chances of a United Ireland (and independent Scotland) which would be an excellent outcome.

    Second, in so far as Brexit affects the Irish economy adversely, I remain to be convinced that it will. In fact, it may well benefit the Irish economy. All the predictions made on June 24 last year that the mere fact of a vote for Brexit would damage the Irish economy (by generating uncertainty) have proved groundless. The economy has roared ahead this year and the fall in unemployment in Ireland in the 12 months to June 2017 was twice as large as the fall in the 12 months to June 2016 (when the Brexit referendum occurred).

    Third, in so far as Brexit affects the N. Ireland ‘economy’ adversely (I put it in quotes as since partition N. Ireland hasn’t had anything that could be called an economy). Same as first point.

    Fourth, regarding cross-border smuggling. I don’t think its as much a case of turning a ‘blind eye’ as the fact that whatever regulation the bureaucrats dream up are unenforceable and will be totally ignored by the locals, myself included. Smuggling will occur on a massive scale and this will prompt a re-think on whatever system of regulation is put in place.

    The Irish government should stop giving the impression if being in a tizzy. It should play it cool and make it clear it thinks all the economic and political risks and possible bad outcomes from Brexit actually lie with Britain and that, while it may regret this, its not unduly bothered if Britain chooses to shoot itself in the foot.

  2. The main benefit s of the new tone that has been adopted is that (i) it will highlight the contradiction in the position of the DUP (ii) alert the EU26 to the fact that Ireland is actually independent of the UK and has a national perspective on EU issues. The problem is that the DUP don’t care and there is a substantial minority in the ROI very negative to the EU, post the 2008 bailout.
    The central issue, however, is that of economic scale. Ireland does not enter into London’s calculations because of this. NI is troublesome province and a drain on exchequer. That’s about it. This is what matters.
    https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jul/29/uk-border-customs-chaos-hit-hard-brexit

  3. I think you are overestimating the amount of thinking Brexiteers have done in the past, and are doing now.

    If you ignore the anti-English brigade (and everyone can quietly admit to themselves where they stand on that) the appropriate thing for the EU to do is patently avoid inflammatory language which would provide an opportunity for flag-wrapping in certain quarters, and wait for the British public to belatedly learn a bit about the EU so public opinion can evolve.

    If the hard line Eurosceptics don’t get Britain out of the EU on this occasion their movement is finished. The likes of Bill Cash and John Redwood are true believers, but the thing most observers don’t really appreciate (because it seems so absurd) is that there are many others jostling for position within the party who still regard “Europe” as something still to be used for internal Conservative party tactical positioning to advance their own path to high office. It is the utter ridiculousness of this (especially since leaving the EU is actually on the cards) that makes it so difficult for rational outside observers to understand.

    While Irish politicians have no requirement of back up the fantasies of Davies, Johnson or Fox, nor should they drift into leading the arguments for the EU. It is also entirely appropriate for the Irish government to pursue the most generous arrangement that can be obtained between Ireland and the UK however illogical some aspects of that may be, in case ‘Brexit’ happens. Intellectual purity should take second place.

  4. There is zero chance of putting in place a hard border. Look at this mess. https://brianmlucey.wordpress.com/2017/07/28/harden-this-border-so/
    I also see that the Telegraph, no stranger to the deeper workings of the UK elite, are pushing the line that there is a mad gagging horde of people in Ireland silently yearning to be free of the yoke of the EU. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2017/07/29/ireland-may-fancy-chances-outside-eu/ Pure fantasy of course but theres an old saw about repeating things often enough and they become true.

    1. The issue of the physical border is not the problem. The problem is that it will become the external border of the EU as part of the EU’s customs union, an exclusive competence of the EU i.e. the member countries have ceased to exercise competences at a national level. The revenues raised are part of the “own resources” of the EU i.e. its budget.
      The best comparison is between Canada and the US, the latter being viewed as the rough equivalent of the EU and its states the equivalent of the states of the EU. One does not need permission to move from New York to California, by way of a small example.
      As the Observer article linked to above illustrates, there is a battle royal going on within the UK cabinet about the practical abyss the country is facing. Hammond is, effectively, arguing for a prolongation of UK membership of the economic core of the EU post-Brexit (viewed solely as the UK’s departure from the formal, legal, institutional structure of the EU).
      What the future holds is still unknown. As is usually the case.

    2. I said a year ago that MI5/MI6 would be busy recruiting people in Irish media/academia to push Irexit. It was considered far-fetched by most posters here. Not so now.

      1. I dont think they need to be recruited. I also dont think any academics will sign up for “rejoin Bighty”. Look instead for PR people and obscure ex insiders

  5. I agree with John – Brexit will not have a major negative impact on the Republic of Ireland. I would even go further and suggest the impact of Brexit to the Irish economy will be very positive.

  6. Yes! Well said.

    Finally sense on this issue. I hope people listen.

    We have a veto on the final deal. The UK needs to understand that the deal is either acceptable to us or there is no deal.

    They chose to shoot themselves in the foot. And they seem to have rather enjoyed the experience as they continue to do it. That’s fine for them, but it’s no reason for us to join in.

  7. How does the border operate between Sweden/Norway, Switz/Germany , USA/Canada? None of those have Hard borders and run quite efficiently without being in a Customs Union with each other.
    As always the the complexities of Brexit are exaggerated to suit the personal viewpoints of the author.

    Short term they’ll be a Brexit bonus for Ireland , especially due to the financial firms re-locating to Dublin however long term Ireland will struggle due to it’s free market model being out voted constantly with the UK gone.
    How long before minimum EU corporation tax rates are introduced which is then constantly increased..

    1. @ TonyV. You are comparing situations that are not comparable. Of the countries you mention, Norway and Switzerland are parties to the Schengen agreement, now part of the EU treaties, and also follow the freedom of movement rules of the EU as they are, effectively, members of the single market. I have no knowledge of the US Canada border but that one could cross it freely and without checks is news to me. Mexico, by the way, also had a trade agreement with the US through NAFTA. No doubt, that border is also as trouble free as you suggest, despite the views of President Trump.
      The EU is based on the fundamental principle of a “highly competitive social market economy”, to quote the treaties.
      You are as misinformed on this issue as you appear to be on others.
      The UK as Ireland’s defender in the EU is a myth. Were it true, more regard would have been had to Irish interests in the context of Brexit.
      All matters relating to taxation are decided on the basis of unanimity in the EU. This will not change following the UK’s departure.

      1. Also apart from agricultural, Norway and Switzerland are in the customs union. UK will be Thatcher
        Out
        Out
        Out
        For USA Canada, I refer you to NAFTA

      2. Switzerland maybe in the Shengen, but not in the EU and specifically not in the Customs union, yet goods flow easily over the border. For goods this is a perfect analogy to a future UK /EU border, and even closer analogy for the Ireland /NO border where there will be freedom of movement of people through the common travel area agreement that predates the EU.

        1. @ ivan gill. The problem with your comment is that it conflates issues and omits vital elements of the EU-Swiss relationship. First, Schengen relates solely to (i) the physical control of persons crossing an internal EU border and (ii) increased cooperative controls at the EU’s external border as a counterweight. The UK and Ireland have opt-outs from this arrangement. It has only indirect relevance for freedom of movement which relates to the rights of EU citizens to live and work anywhere in the EU. It is clear that both situations will be radically altered when the UK ceases to be a member of the EU.
          Through a patchwork of interrelated agreements, Switzerland is effectively a member of the single market. Freedom of movement is one element i.e. citizens of the EU and Switzerland enjoy reciprocal rights. The Swiss, by referendum, tried to change this. The EU did not concede any ground other than agreeing to the non-discriminatory requirement that jobs be first offered locally. Switzerland-EU economic ties are more significant than those with the UK.
          Membership effectively of the single market eases the customs control requirement as there are no regulatory barriers. Financial services other insurance are not, however, included. Agriculture is.
          Switzerland is a major exporting nation of world class products.
          It provides, nevertheless, pointers for the UK. If the latter could only make up its mind.

    2. The Canada-US border is a pretty hard border. It has always been a solid dividing line but has gotten worse since 9/11.

    3. I am a US citizen who lived (and worked) in Canada for six months a few years ago.
      While actually crossing the border was more-or-less painless, the nonsense an ordinary
      person endured when having something shipped over the border is crazy.
      For starters, many companies will just refuse to ship to Canada.

      When we had eyeglasses shipped back and forth to the US for repair, they went into the US
      with no problem, but Canadian customs impounded the package, on the grounds that we
      needed to document that we were not illegally importing eyeglasses into the country. . .
      My comment at the time was “Isn’t there a Free Trade Agreement around here?”

      My experience is that, while they make the border experience painless for tourists and
      for Middle-Class people in general, it is definitely not a friction-less process.

  8. From NYT: British Government Divided on Free Movement After Brexit

    By REUTERS JULY 31, 2017, 2:57 A.M. E.D.T.

    Festering nicely.

  9. I agree that the practicalities of a ‘hard border’ make it virtually impossible. My uncle owned a pub/store back in the 50s/early 60s that straddled the border. One part was in Tyrone and the other part in Donegal. Items would be repositioned regularly according to tax rates/excise duties, which made it very profitable. Although he was a staunch republican, it was very popular with Donegal Orangemen on their way back from parades in Tyrone. Unlike now, things were generally cheaper then in Donegal. It all went pear-shaped when the Troubles came. If there is a ‘hard border’, I expect that border will be lined from Derry to Newry with such places.The locals won’t give a toss about enforcing whatever regulatory procedures are established. And I expect that any physical/electronic devices installed to monitor cross-border traffic will be removed by the locals (hopefully manually rather than with gelignite).

  10. Varadakar and Coveney need to lighten up. There is no need for a poor-mouth act or for giving the ludicrous impression that the future of the Irish economy is hanging by a thread, dependent on the whims of Theresa May, Boris Johnson, David Davies and Michael Gove. I suspect its all to boost their credentials with nationalist conservative rural Ireland in advance of their introducing industrial abortion to Ireland (which won’t go down well in those circles). Instead of acting like its a rerun of the 1930s Economic War, they need to just point out calmly that its Britain, not Ireland, that’s losing out from Brexit – and that, while as good neighbours that makes them sad, its not their fault.

    They could start by pointing out (a) Ireland’s economy is growing by 7%-8% (GNI* measure), while Britain is struggling to achieve 1% this year (b) Inflation in Ireland is -0.7% (resulting in rising living standards) v 2.6% in Britain (resulting in falling living standards) (c) Ireland’s budget deficit is virtually gone and its reducing taxes while Britain’s budget deficit is forecast to rise sharply this year (d) Ireland has a huge balance-of-payments surplus while Britain has a massive deficit (e) The left in Ireland is at rock-bottom in the polls while the left in Britain has surged – and a hard-left government seems probable there in the next couple of years.

  11. @ Brian Lucey. Norway and Switzierland are NOT in the customs union.
    The widespread confusion regarding this, the single market (sic), access to it and “free” trade areas (FTA’s) stems from the fact that there is a failure to distinguish them from the internal market (Article 26. 2 TFEU “The internal market shall comprise an area without internal frontiers in which the free movement of goods, persons, services and capital is ensured in accordance with the provisions of the treaties”). The single market is a term of convenience, largely defined by the carve-out of the internal market contained in the EEA. Agriculture, fisheries and the CU, an essential feature of the internal market properly defined, are not included.
    The parallel I draw above with US-Canada provides the best way of explaining it. The mutual access that Canada and the US enjoy is by way of an FTA. This is also a misnomer. A “freer” trade agreement maybe!
    The confusion is now so deep-rooted in the UK popular mind that it constitutes a major hindrance to any agreement. It is doubtful whether the situation is any different in Ireland.
    What Hammond is talking about is an “off the shelf” prolongation of major elements of UK membership, the content of which is the subject of dispute, post-Brexit. This would, hopefully, from an Irish point of view, include agriculture and the CU.
    The kamikase element among the Conservatives smells a rat. They simply want OUT without regard to the economic consequences. British business seems, finally, to be waking up.
    Were the EU27 to agree, which is far from clear, financial services would be excluded. The UK has burnt its boats in that area, enjoying the free movement of capital, without adopting, indeed, denying any involvement, in the euro.
    Varadkar, incidentally, post-Brexit, if my memory serves me right, identified three significant watershed points since independence; leaving the Commonwealth, breaking the link with sterling and adopting the euro.

  12. Paddy rushing to put himself in the front line of a modern European war does not sound very astute to me, however righteous the cause.
    Let the larger EU powers, through the EC, duke it out with the UK. The EU has said that our concerns are their concerns, and in fairness up to now the EC appear to be playing an even hand. **
    Ours not to reason why, and certainly not to do or die.

    **Except that is for the bit about a UK resident in an EU country for 20 years, being suddenly confined to the country he (or she) finds himself in; his existing EU travel and work rights thrown into La Manche. So a UK national working in Ireland for 20 or 30 years will be unable to travel freely to any EU country other than Ireland. Sounds a bit harsh to me.

    As to the theory that a hard Brexit would be good for Ireland, or do no harm, its a theory that would be a hard sell in the meat processing industry. With live cattle attracting a ~7% tariff, and meat products a ~50% tariff, where does it make sense to kill and process the live animals. Larry Goodman did not get where is today without being able to figure that out, and it does not look as if he is resting on his laurels this time while the respective negotiating teams look at each other cross an empty table.

    http://www.independent.ie/business/farming/beef/goodman-owned-abp-to-extend-meat-processing-interests-with-fane-valley-deal-35850951.html

    1. Joseph
      I find it very surprising when the discussion on Brexit resolves, as it so often does, to the agribusiness sector. Yep, they will be badly hurt. No doubt.
      But the economy no longer relies on cows being driven down the Quays to the north wall. I know thats not what you are saying but there is a perception abroad, in the widest sense of that word, that we are an agribusiness related nation. Lets not play to that

      1. Brian
        Ok. But then lets take two rural towns, Nenagh, home to Carey Glass an employer of approx** 400 people, and Ballydesmond, Cork home to Munster Joinery, possibly** 500 people, both significant exporters of glass and window products to the UK; both successful indigenous businesses.
        In both cases float glass is imported, processed / assembled and exported to the UK, meaning that the freight cost (both ways) is an additional cost that UK local glass processors do not have. If we have a hard Brexit a further customs cost will have to be borne on the raw material (glass) imported and a UK customs charge on the product exported.
        Both companies have some manufacturing capacity in the UK, as I understand it. At what point will the additional customs formalities and in particular customs duties negate whatever competitive advantage these companies already have.
        And you don’t have to be Einstein to work out which factor cost allows indigenous Irish companies to be competitive in the UK, at present!

        PS Nenagh also happens to be home to a large AIBP meat processing plant. How many people? Possibly 300, but who knows!

        The impact of a hard Brexit will be far wider and far deeper than just agribusiness. Meat products, after all, have an EU floor market price, and are commodities to some extent.

        ** It is not possible to say how many people these companies employ, as many such companies use legal mechanisms to avoid publishing accounts; the Isle of Man route is a favourite ruse. A new EU directive has belatedly but finally been brought into legislation (June 2017, I think) in Ireland to stop such practices; its effect tactically delayed as usual by the Irish legislature, and no doubt the delay will be used to find another get out mechanism.

        1. Kinda makes my point. It’s a lot more than agriculture. And MJ are a domestic SME. They across all sectors are far too ties to the UK.

  13. There are (at least) two essential ingredients for the operation of a ‘sustainable’ modernist economy: (a) you make stuff at home and you sell it abroad; (b) you strictly control inward migration except for tourists and business visitors. If this piece of economic wisdom is not part of your intellectual policy-making mindset, and you are a significant political decision-maker, then your soverign is at risk.

    The EU is not a soverign. So do not expect the ‘technostructure’ of any EU bureaucracy to promote economic policies which conflict with the stated aims of those politicians who have decided upon a federalist structure. There will, in that awful phrase excreted by trade economists – “There will be winners, and there will be losers – but everyone gains in the long run.” Sure, there are a few elite winners. But there are a far greater number of non-elite losers. And those losers never catch up, never retrieve their economic losses. You will not hear or see that latter outcome being the subject of media discussions or commentary – except its to deplore those revolting non-elite losers protestesting on our streets – again!

    If you wish to predict the nature of the EU (and Ireland’s situation) after the UK departs (but will it?): observe the relevant political events. The national politicians whose futures (and parties) are at stake will have the final say, not the unelected technocrats. And whither the UK eventually goes, so too will we. Our social and economic umbilicus has been firmly attached to the UK since 1172 (if not before), not to the EU. If that umbilicus were to be severed Ireland would – probably within a decade, be relegated to the bottom segment of the EU economic league table. There will be a great number of losers. The few winners will still draw their taxpayer funded salaries and pensions.

    Is St. Jude still available? Or shall we be constrained to watch the Reality TV version of events?

  14. A comment on the impact of Brexit.

    It is not possible to model something which has never happened before, such as Brexit or QE, so existing models are tweaked to mimic what the authors believe is appropriate.. For example, the ESRI used the results of the National Institute’s model ( Brexit causes lower EU and lower UK growth) to find that Brexit would reduce Irish GDP over a decade. It would be more accurate to say that lower EU and UK growth would reduce Irish GDP, but in this case there was no offsetting capital inflow from Britain, which may or may not happen on a material scale. So we don’t know.

    1. Dan, we have a useful model of our own – the Economic War, declared by De Valera in 1932. It eviserated rural Ireland. And its negative economic effects were evident for almost three decades. I hope no one is proposing (by accident rather than by design) that we re-visit that sort of model. Our land frontier is with the UK, not an EU soverign. Great caution is advised.

        1. Its merely a model, albeit an historical one – and that’s what econs do; assume assumptions and ‘model’. Reality is a mere inconvenience in these matters.

  15. Life may indeed be too short to fathom the mindset of ardent Brexiteers. But the superficiality of their issue analysis, and reliance on polarisation as a political methodology, have been apparent since the vote to leave in June last year.

    Using the Irish border issue as a Trojan horse to secure a better trade deal with the EU fits with the UK government ‘all or nothing, winner takes all’ current approach to negotiating Brexit. The complexity of any problem is never allowed to get in the way of the Brexiteers’ intuitive reactions. So when it comes to construction of a land border with the EU on the island of Ireland, any evidence as to the impracticality of a proposed IT- based ‘frictionless border’ trading regime is excluded from consideration. Evidence doesn’t matter. The interests of other stakeholders don’t feature at all. All social and local political considerations are irrelevant. And, in some grander vision of the Brexit Secretary, David Davis, if the Irish border issue can be positioned to wrest an even greater outcome that favours the UK future trading relationship with the EU, then that’s all as it should be.

    In that context, our government would be irresponsible not to call out its UK counterpart on its approach to those issues in which we have a vital interest. It’s a rare enough thing for Ireland to find itself in a situation in which it has the other 26 member states backing it up. Best to use that political capital whilst it’s available to us.

    1. Brexiteers reckon not the cost. This is ideology, or xenophobia dressed in tattered union bunting left over from the Diamond Jubilee.
      https://www.ft.com/content/c45695ed-9c4f-3f6e-bae1-1e026c2ef191
      Truly startling
      “In total, 61 per cent of Leave voters told pollsters that they would accept “significant damage to the British economy” if it meant the UK leaving the EU, while 20 per cent said this would be too high a price….

      Of Leavers, 39 per cent said they would accept Brexit causing them or their family members to lose their job to achieve Brexit….
      Older Leave voters are significantly more willing than their younger counterparts to see the country, themselves and their families economically compromised in order to achieve Brexit. Whereas 46 per cent of 18-24-year-old Leave voters said significant damage to the economy is a price worth paying for Brexit, this figure increases with every subsequent age group to 71 per cent of Leave voters aged 65 and over”

      Presume if they had asked willingness to accept them losing or reducing their pension they might have gotten a different answer.

      The UK is not a rational player in this game. Look at the effect on the City https://www.ft.com/content/9fdf35a4-7610-11e7-a3e8-60495fe6ca71


      The consultancy stuck to the forecast it made last year that Brexit would drive 31,000-35,000 financial services jobs out of the UK, of which 12,000-17,000 would be in banking. In a worst-case scenario, in which euro clearing is shifted to the eurozone, banks could shift as many as 40,000 jobs out of the UK”

      It makes absolute sense to take everything possible from the UK, to be hard and clear.

    2. The reverse is in fact the case. The NI border encapsulates all the contradictions in the UK’s position with the added complication of the political and security dimension governed by another international treaty; the GFA. The spin put on it by Davis does not alter this fact.

    3. “It’s a rare enough thing for Ireland to find itself in a situation in which it has the other 26 member states backing it up.”

      Veronica, I would have considerable reservations about this 1:26 ratio. Our economic situation is actually quite perilous and we would be cast adrift without hesitation if that is what the nationalistic politicians of Mittle Europe believe is in their individual and collective best interests. Some sage once described some of the soverigns of the then EU (1980) as being merely the frill around the bottom of the Franco-German skirt. I would opine that it is these latter two who will quitely decide what the final outcome of the Brexit negotiations should be. The ‘frills’ will follow.

      So that provides us with a significantly flakey group of possible supporters – who know exactly what we are – an Anglophone territory. Varadker’s bluster will probably be understood for what it is: a vaporous distraction. And, who would be seriously inconvenienced by the re-imposition of a ‘land border’? Us of course! None of the other EU members would be affected. QED. As for the destination of the GFA. That our problem; not one for the EU Negotiators to sort out on our behalf. Its merely small-change for them. They have a real economic problem elsewhere.

      A more integrated understanding of the complex political context for the Brexit negotiations may be needed: trouble in East. The EU soverigns to the East (and Ukraine) have a bad-tempered emergent Russian Empirette to worry about. The US (ineptly assisted by Britian) has been messing about in NE Europe since 1919 when they actually sent a military expeditionary force ashore in Estonia to assist the White Russians against the Bolsheviks (aka: The Red Army). They are still provoking the Bear. It drives the Russians to distraction and they will react without warning. Western politicians are simply as thick as Yak shit when it comes to understanding the Russian mindset.

      Whose land frontier borders Russia? Who controls the gaz taps? Yeah, I thought so. The UK has a tasty moat to protect it; island folk are different. The EU can tell the UK to get ‘stuffed’ – or something close to this. I doubt they would try that with Putin.

      We had better have a workable, fall-back Economic Plan B in reserve. Whence the UK, so also go we.

  16. Brexiteers reckon not the cost. This is ideology, or xenophobia dressed in tattered union bunting left over from the Diamond Jubilee.
    https://www. ft.com/content/c45695ed-9c4f-3f6e-bae1-1e026c2ef191
    Truly startling
    “In total, 61 per cent of Leave voters told pollsters that they would accept “significant damage to the British economy” if it meant the UK leaving the EU, while 20 per cent said this would be too high a price….

    Of Leavers, 39 per cent said they would accept Brexit causing them or their family members to lose their job to achieve Brexit….
    Older Leave voters are significantly more willing than their younger counterparts to see the country, themselves and their families economically compromised in order to achieve Brexit. Whereas 46 per cent of 18-24-year-old Leave voters said significant damage to the economy is a price worth paying for Brexit, this figure increases with every subsequent age group to 71 per cent of Leave voters aged 65 and over”

    Presume if they had asked willingness to accept them losing or reducing their pension they might have gotten a different answer.

    The UK is not a rational player in this game. Look at the effect on the City https://www. ft.com/content/9fdf35a4-7610-11e7-a3e8-60495fe6ca71


    The consultancy stuck to the forecast it made last year that Brexit would drive 31,000-35,000 financial services jobs out of the UK, of which 12,000-17,000 would be in banking. In a worst-case scenario, in which euro clearing is shifted to the eurozone, banks could shift as many as 40,000 jobs out of the UK”

    It makes absolute sense to take everything possible from the UK, to be hard and clear.

  17. Great post. Fudge has been the official approach to NI for so long that it’s shocking to hear the Irish Govt take a clear position on something. But it’s needed.

    Don’t agree with the bourgeois nationalist line that seems to delight in the harms that Brexit will cause the UK. Nothing good will come of Brexit for the UK or Ireland and let’s not pretend it will. Agribusiness is the only thing keeping huge sections of rural Ireland afloat – my own patch (North Kerry) will be devastated.

  18. I don’t think pushing a more confrontational line with the Brits will help. But there should be a huge vote of thanks to the relevant politicos and diplomatic officials who succeeded in getting the NI issue up front as one of the three issues (together with reciprocal citizens’ rights and the financial settlement) the EU wishes to have resolved before there is any consideration of the UK’s future relationship with the EU. That’s where the focus should be: maintaining the salience and importance of this issue. There is a risk that, having got it in there, there’ll be some resting on the oars. Like a fellow West Cork man put it in another context, they’ll need to keep pulling like dogs. The Brits will play their usual game of divide and conquer and the big EU players have national interests that greatly outweigh any Irish considerations. In addition, the Brits involved have the same view of the Irish as the Punch cartoonists in the 19th Century.

    1. @ Paul Hunt. I would largely agree. As usual, Irish politicians, North and South, are managing to make a bad situation worse. The important interface is between the DUP and the Brits that you identify. The fundamental problem is that it is an article of faith with the latter that the UK must free itself from “the shackles” of the EU, especially when it comes to trade, and pursue the sunny up lands that they have promised unhindered (e.g. by pursuing lower tariffs for Scotch whiskey!). Continued membership of the customs union is, therefore, for them a red line. The only approach that would mitigate the impact of this on the Border would be for the UK to continue membership of the single market, adding in agriculture, as in the case of Switzerland. But this is also a red line.
      Something has got to give. Janan Ganesh of the FT, in a memorable phrase, said some months ago that “Brexit is an idea whose only rebuttal is its own implementation”.
      Brexit IS being implemented as we speak. The question is when will the “rebuttal” begin to arrive and in what circumstances. Given the time constraints, it seems to me that the moment may well be in October post the Tory party conference and the, likely, return of Merkel in Germany after their elections.
      The impact on economic operators in the UK, and resultant impact on English public opinion, is what will decide the outcome of the power struggle between the kamikase element and the realists. The latter, under Hammonnd, are gaining ground. Something Jeffrey Donaldson appears to be aware of cf.
      http://www.rte.ie/radio1/news-at-one/

    2. @ Paul Hunt. I would largely agree. As usual, Irish politicians, North and South, are managing to make a bad situation worse. The important interface is between the DUP and the Brits that you identify. The fundamental problem is that it is an article of faith with the latter that the UK must free itself from “the shackles” of the EU, especially when it comes to trade, and pursue the sunny up lands that they have promised unhindered (e.g. by pursuing lower tariffs for Scotch whiskey!). Continued membership of the customs union is, therefore, for them a red line. The only approach that would mitigate the impact of this on the Border would be for the UK to continue membership of the single market, adding in agriculture, as in the case of Switzerland. But this is also a red line.
      Something has got to give. Janan Ganesh of the FT, in a memorable phrase, said some months ago that “Brexit is an idea whose only rebuttal is its own implementation”.
      Brexit IS being implemented as we speak. The question is when will the “rebuttal” begin to arrive and in what circumstances. Given the time constraints, it seems to me that the moment may well be in October post the Tory party conference and the, likely, return of Merkel in Germany after their elections.
      The impact on economic operators in the UK, and resultant impact on English public opinion, is what will decide the outcome of the power struggle between the kamikase element and the realists. The latter, under Hammonnd, are gaining ground. Something Jeffrey Donaldson appears to be aware of.

      1. It still never fails to amaze me that so many commenters here feel obliged to hide behind psuedonyms. It’s not that most of the comments are critical of those who exercise power and influence or betray great originality of thought. The penalties for the public expression of facts and opinions that might discombobulate someone somewhere must be extraordinarily high in Ireland.

        However, be that as it may… I think you are overlooking the far from exceptional, but nevertheless significant, mainly English, but not exclusively so, deep-seated resistance to having any involvement in the making of laws that govern them by people whom they cannot eject directly via the ballot box. This resistance runs right across the political spectrum. It informed the Bennite opposition in the 1975 referendum – and we can be reasonably sure it influenced Corbyn’s lack-lustre campaign (since he appears incapable of original thought) – and informed the “taking back control” slogan of the Tory Brexiteers. One should not underestimate the amount of economic pain that many of these voters are prepared to bear. And when the inevitable economic pain has to be borne it will all be the fault of Johnny Foreigner being beastly to the freedom-loving Brits.

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