IRELAND’s “slavish” devotion to their “sacred cow”, the European Union, is not only essentially distracting Ireland from the inherent danger of remaining tethered to a collapsing Brussels, but also from the importance of continuing good relations with Britain after BRexit, a former diplomat has warned. After all UK and Ireland had good relations prior to the EU and UK is Ireland’s largest trading partner.
Writing for London-based think tank Politea, Dr Ray Bassett, warned Dublin the entire future of the bloc was “in doubt” and urged Irish leaders to put Ireland’s interests first.
Concerns about the future of the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland have arguably been made into the biggest headache for BRexit negotiators, with both sides keen to avoid the re-imposition of a hard border which would be seen as a threat to the 1999’s landmark Good Friday Agreement. However the EU insensitively insisted on using it as a bargaining chip to gain leverage over UK BRexit negotiators.
The former Irish ambassador to Canada, Jamaica and the Bahamas, who also helped negotiate the Good Friday Agreement, characterised the problems with the Irish border as “essentially political in nature”, declaring the importance of North/South trade to the overall economies of the Irish and British island economies to be “relatively small”.
He added: “This emotive issue has been used as a weapon by those wanting to thwart the result of the Brexit referendum, including leading members of the British establishment.
“This is a very uncomfortable position for Ireland. Whatever the outcome of the BRexit process, Irish and British people will have to live alongside each other.
“Ireland’s history has been characterised on occasions by poor and short-term decision making.
“This is a time when Ireland should, by all logic, be working hard to ensure a beneficial outcome which restores the excellent relations between the two countries.”
As such, he said Ireland should be a strong advocate for comprehensive free trading arrangements between the EU and the UK – only for the border issue to “get in the way”. Britain which had never fully committed to the EU by adopting a single currency, had been instrumental in flagging up concerns over the way the EU operated over the years, including in areas such as reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and budgetary control. Ireland has handed over 200 Billion Euros worth of fish to the EU and is now a net contributor of 1 Billion per year.
Highlighting the EU’s undemocratic record he said: “We need to solve this matter as soon as possible and by a method which does not seek to scupper the referendum result. The history of ignoring and reversing referenda results in the EU is shameful. We certainly do not need another example.”
Apart from concerns over future bilateral relations, Dr Bassett said Ireland needed to “keep its options open” when it comes to the EU.
He said: “Until recently it was almost taboo, close to treasonous, for anybody in Ireland to seriously question the country’s slavish devotion to the EU, yet there are very few in Government circles who have a deep understanding of what the “Project” is all about.
“We can confidently predict, as elsewhere in the EU, there will be growing disenchantment with Brussels and the desire of Europhiles for a United States of Europe. The whole sustainability of the European Union, as presently constituted, is in serious long-term doubt.
“Ireland needs to be on the right side of these historical developments.”
He added: “The disenchantment with the Brussels model is also spreading to other countries. Recent elections in the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Hungary and Italy have all shown increasing support for a different type of arrangement in Europe.”