Saturday 5 August 2017

Ireland shows why Scotland will never leave

Apparently the Irish Taoiseach wants the UK to remain in the EU. He is trying to keep the door open to the European Union and if that door fails, then he wants Britain to at least remain in the European Single Market and Customs Union. The Republic of Ireland is also concerned about the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic and it wishes to maintain the passport free Common Travel Area that allows citizens of the Republic to travel anywhere within the British Isles without even showing a passport. But if that proves impossible the Republic would prefer border checks to take place at the sea crossings between Britain and Ireland. Above all the Republic is concerned about its trade. The British buy a lot of goods and services from the Republic and these goods when transported to the European mainland make their way through Britain. To summarise Brexit is going rather badly for the Republic of Ireland.

The Pro EU establishment across the world went full blast with their scare stories in 2016, but the British didn’t listen. We’ve been through tough times before and generally we can take it. We are usually willing to fight for a principle. We don’t care to be controlled by foreign powers. This after all is what we were fighting for both in 1914 and 1939. Maintaining the sovereignty of the UK and other European nation states has been at the core of Britain’s foreign policy for centuries. It is the reason why we are willing to go through tough times. We do so because it is worth it. But fortunately it looks as if we are not going to go through particularly tough times. A year later and the UK economy is doing just fine. Despite an epic Remoan rear-guard action Britain is going to leave the EU and we are going to leave completely. To achieve this goal we actually don’t have to do a thing. We just have to wait and in early 2019 we will have left.

It would be very nice to have a deal with the EU. The deal could go something like this. The UK will become a country like nearly every other country in the world that trades more or less freely without giving up one little bit of our sovereignty. Australia, for instance, does not need to be ruled by Jakarta in order to trade with the rest of Australasia. It does not require the Australasian Court or the Australasian Commission to tell it what to do. No-one in Australia would consider such a requirement to be worth it. They would say stuff your trade if you want to tell us what to do. We can buy from someone else. So the EU can allow us to trade more or less freely or we can buy from someone else. That is their choice. Whatever happens we will be fine. We may need to adjust. We may have to buy Anchor butter rather than Kerrygold. But here’s the deal. We can get on quite well without buying Irish butter or German cars. We can get our butter and cars from somewhere else. We could even make our own.

The Republic of Ireland unfortunately is in a rather different position. Much of their trade is with the UK. If the EU imposes delays and tariffs on trade between the UK and the EU it is going to make it rather difficult for Dublin to send its milk and butter to the EU. It could either send it on a slow boat round Britain or it could find its lorries held up both at Holyhead and Dover. If British tourists have to spend hours waiting in line to show their passport at the EU border, then Republic of Irish citizens might equally find it somewhat harder to nip across the border to fill up with petrol in Northern Ireland. Cooperation cuts both ways. Of course it need not be that way, but EU attempts to punish Britain for Brexit are liable to end up punishing the EU. If Canada can trade freely with the EU while remaining a sovereign nation state, then so too can Britain. You either help that to happen or you don’t. I understand that the whole EU project is held together by fear and dependence. You need to try to discourage others from leaving. But we will adjust no matter what you do. We are not scared and neither are we dependent on EU money. The EU gets more from Britain than we get back both in terms of trade and in terms of subsidy. It is this that fundamentally meant membership was a bad deal for us. Losing the UK might be bad for the EU, but it is not bad for Britain. That is indeed why we are leaving.

The fundamental problem for the Republic of Ireland is that since it left the UK it has maintained a fundamentally domestic relationship with the UK while being independent. The UK’s response to the Republic leaving the UK has been to allow it to maintain its close ties with us. For this reason we have always allowed Republic of Ireland citizens to live and work in the UK. We have maintained an open border between Northern Ireland and the Republic apart from those times when security concerns prevented us from doing so. We have continued to buy Republic of Ireland goods and services as if they were domestic goods and services.

There has been very little animosity from the British side. If the Republic of Ireland plays football, many people in Britain support them as if they were one of our own home nations. Many British people, including me, have Irish ancestry. We don’t think of Dublin in the same way as we think of Paris. Both are capitals of independent nation states, but one seems rather more foreign than the other. I think it is because of the closeness that British people feel towards the Republic of Ireland that we buy so many Irish goods and services. Someone from London buys goods from Dublin with the same sense of buying something from home as he would if he bought them from Edinburgh, Cardiff or Belfast. We don’t think of Guinness as being from abroad.

But this feeling is not altogether reciprocated. I have never met someone from the Irish Republic who hasn’t had a chip on their shoulder about the Brits. At some point, usually fairly quickly, I am reminded about Cromwell or famine or some other awful thing that we have done. There is a fundamental hostility that Britain gets from the Republic in return for treating them like cousins. We may get on for the most part, but the limit is that our supposed friends can’t quite bear that they speak the same language as we do, feel guilty that they failed to resurrect their own ancient language and blame us for absolutely everything that has ever happened and ever will happen.  

The Republic of Ireland wishes to maintain a domestic relationship with the UK, while being independent. This is the contradiction in their whole being ever since 1916. In one of our darkest hours a few weeks before the slaughter on the Somme, we met with treachery in Dublin and punished it accordingly in the same way that any other European country would have acted while at war. But few indeed are the Brits who hold it against them. Few indeed are the Brits who go on and on about it.

The Republic achieved its independence by means of terrorism (the IRA), but it never accepted that the people of Northern Ireland had the right to choose their own destiny. If Ireland had the right to secede from the UK, why on earth does Northern Ireland not have the right to choose to stay? But the Republic has never really accepted the right of the Northern Irish people to choose not to be a part of the Republic. For this reason more or less the same Irish nationalism that led to independence and the same Irish terrorism (the IRA) tried for decades to force Northern Ireland to submit. But we didn’t submit.

The response of the Republic since 1916 has more or less been hostility. While we have maintained open borders and treated the Republic as part of the family, they have responded with bombs or tacit support for those bombs. The aim of the Republic has always been the same as that of the IRA, only the means have differed. Now they want to use Brexit to bring those aims closer.

The aims of the Irish Republic have always been to annex part of the territory of the United Kingdom, i.e. Northern Ireland. This is the equivalent of Germany having the aim of taking back parts of Poland. The Poles would rightly consider this to be a fundamentally hostile foreign policy. Likewise if Mexico wanted to take back California and New Mexico, the United States would not treat Mexico as a friendly neighbour. Luckily for the Republic of Ireland we have looked upon its aims more tolerantly. We haven’t let them spoil how we look upon the cousins. We are used to their enmity and indulge it. But there are limits you know.

There is an international border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. Sorry folks, but you put it there.  It followed from your choice to leave. You didn’t have to leave. The only real difference between Ireland and Britain is Catholicism and you have more or less given up on that now. Why else would you vote in a referendum to go against the teachings of the Church?  Despite your use of unpronounceable, unspellable words like "Taoiseach" and your rather perverse inability to pronounce "th" you all speak English just like we do . We have a shared history that goes back to the Norman Conquest and beyond. It is for this reason, as well as geography, that you trade more with us than you do with Slovakia.

The Republic of Ireland had a right to choose independence. They fought for it and they won. But they have never properly followed through the logic of this position. Now unfortunately they are forced to do so. Long term it's looking more and more like a strategic mistake. For nearly one hundred years the UK and the Republic have been able to maintain something like a domestic relationship while being separate nation states. This is no longer going to be possible. But this is simply a consequence of the Irish decision one hundred years ago. If the Irish Taoiseach wants to keep the door open to the EU, the UK might as well respond by saying we keep the door open to your coming back to the UK. That now is the only way that the Republic of Ireland can maintain its domestic relationship with Britain.

The Republic of Ireland is going to end up in a different trading bloc to its largest trade partner and closest neighbour. The border between Northern Ireland and the Republic is going to be the border between the EU and the non-EU. Dublin must finally accept that this border does not go through the Irish Sea. We will do all we can to make the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic as open as possible. But this is where the border is.

The only way now for the Republic of Ireland to maintain its domestic relationship with the UK is for the Republic to leave the EU. Britain would no doubt be willing to help. If the Republic left the EU, there would be no problem maintaining the Common Travel Area and we could create our own trade bloc as we more or less did from Irish independence to our both joining the EU.

I don’t think the Republic will do this however. The logic of the Republic leaving the EU and aligning itself once more with Britain is “ever closer union” between Britain and Ireland. In this way also Ireland could cease to be partitioned. But the Irish chip on its shoulder will prevent this. It makes a lot more sense to form one nation out of Britain and Ireland than it does to form one nation out of the EU. But Irish hatred of the Brits is more powerful than sense. Your choice folks.

Brexit will be a disaster for the Republic of Ireland. That is a shame, but it is a consequence of their decision all those years ago to leave the UK. Now the Republic will be properly independent. It will remain part of an ever closer EU and its relationship with the UK including Northern Ireland will diverge.  

Irish nationalism always involved a contradiction. They wanted to be independent, but they also wanted to maintain a relationship with the UK as if they were not independent. They want the same thing now. But sorry dear Republic of Ireland, you are an independent nation state. Brexit is not your business. Despite the Good Friday Agreement/Anglo Irish Agreement etc etc (all concessions to essentially the same Irish Republican terrorism that gave rise to the Republic in the first place) Northern Ireland is fundamentally not your business either. It is part of another sovereign nation state.   If there is to be a full international border it is a consequence of both the UK and the Republic of Ireland being what they are.

The same contradiction that is involved in Irish nationalism is, of course, to be found in Scottish nationalism. The SNP want Scotland to be independent, but to maintain a domestic relationship with the other parts of the UK. They want to keep the pound, open borders, a social union, and everything else they like about being a part of the UK. But this is to want to have both a domestic and an international relationship. They want therefore both an international and a non-international relationship, i.e. they want a contradiction.

Scotland even more than the Republic of Ireland has far greater domestic trade with the other parts of the UK than with any external market. But a domestic trade relationship (the UK’s internal market) can only be maintained by remaining a part of the UK. The clue is in the word "internal". Brexit makes this logic clear. The internal cannot be the same as the external.

The Republic of Ireland after nearly one hundred years is going to get itself in effect kicked out of the UK’s internal market. This is something that it really should be scared off. Likewise if Scotland chose independence it too would find itself in a different trading bloc to its largest trade partner. There would be a real international border between Berwick and Gretna and that border would have consequences. But again becoming independent logically involves creating an international border. It involves losing a domestic relationship and an internal market and having it replaced by an international relationship and an external market. Scottish nationalism has tried to hide the logic of its position, but Brexit is exposing the fact that the SNP has no intellectual foundation. They haven’t thought it through. I have yet to come across any Scottish nationalist who strikes me as really able. All I meet is cliché, unoriginal left-wing dogma and abuse. It’s either nice, but very average or nasty and rather dim. Brexit has exposed the lack of intellect and when a house is built without a foundation it tends to sink. This is what is happening to the SNP now.

A full and clean Brexit whereby we leave both the Customs Union and the EU’s Single Market will very ably demonstrate to the Irish Republic that its choice to become an independent nation state has consequences. These have been hidden. But they are now going to become clear. It is for this reason that the Irish Taoiseach is so angry about it. But I would suggest that he cease meddling in the affairs of another sovereign nation state. We made our decision. Unlike in the Republic of Ireland we respect the democratic will of the British people. We don’t ignore the result of our elections and we don’t take kindly to being asked to vote again until we get the right answer.  We are not in thrall to the EU as you are. We prefer freedom to their money, which anyway we don’t need and never really received.

The Republic of Ireland revolted in 1916 and chose independence only to find itself ruled by the Troika of the International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank and European Commission. It sold its sovereignty for a mess of Euros and gave up its independence gradually for the sake of money from the European Union. Now the Republic of Ireland will gradually merge with this United States of Europe and it will have as much independence and sovereignty as Texas, or New South Wales. Meanwhile Britain will re-join the club of sovereign nation states like Canada, Australia, Japan and the USA. Poor Dublin trapped by its history and by its hatred of the wicked Brits will look on and fume.

Hatred of the English almost meant that Scotland joined this fuming. But despite Nicola Sturgeon’s fury, most Scots have moved beyond our history. Only a minority here want to blame the English for everything and refight old battles. Brexit means that the SNP dream has died.  What happens to the Republic of Ireland in the next few years will prevent Scotland even considering following the same path. Why would you?