Brexit: Morning Star’s post-imperial delusions towards Ireland

“It’s entirely up to the EU if it wants to undermine the goodwill in Ireland embodied in the Good Friday Agreement by setting up a hard border.

“The British and Irish governments do not want this. They have no need to create it. With a little more than irony, Brussels dominates Dublin and now wants to dominate Belfast. Its imposition of a hard border would be a new form of colonialism in itself.”

Where do these extraordinary words come from? The Daily Mail? The Telegraph? Boris Johnson? Arlene Foster? No: one Doug Nicholls, writing in the Morning Star (October 10 2018). Mr Nicholls is not, it turns out, a member of the European Research Group or the DUP, but a self-styled “socialist” and chair of Trade Unionists Against the EU (TUAEU). Mind you the socialist credentials of anyone associated with TUAEU must be somewhat called into question given that organisation’s record of accepting funding from the ultra-right wing friend of Bannon and Trump, Arron Banks.

Anyway, it seems to have escaped Mr Nicholls’ notice that the danger of a hard border in Ireland and the threat to the Good Friday/Belfast agreement, does not originate with the EU but with Britain – or, more precisely, England and the Tories.

One of the key provisions of the agreement is that anyone born in Northern Ireland has the right to be a citizen of the UK or Ireland or both. What does that mean under Brexit? Can someone be both an EU citizen and not an EU citizen? Likewise, the agreement underpins human rights through the “complete incorporation into Northern Ireland law of the European Convention on Human Rights”. Though not strictly required by Brexit, the Tory Brexiteers are committed to removing the convention from UK law – in other words to ripping out a core part of the peace settlement.

The Belfast agreement is an international treaty, registered with the United Nations. Despite its short-comings it has brought peace and security for twenty years and saved countless lives: yet during the referendum campaign it was scarcely discussed and even now Brexiteers like Boris Johnson and the “Labour” disgrace Kate Hoey airily brush it aside as of no significance.

Mr Nicholls’ anti-EU tirade displays typical English post-imperial arrogance towards Ireland: “If no-one in Ireland or Britain wants a hard border, why does the EU want to impose one and what right does it have to do so?” asks Nicholls. This is either a rhetorical question to which he knows the answer, or a demonstration of quite breathtaking ignorance.

People like Mr Nicholls and the editorial team of the Morning Star are all in favour of borders and of restrictions upon free movement – except when it comes to the EU’s one land border with the UK, to be imposed against the wishes of the people of Ireland, North and South, and against the wishes of the EU, by the Brexit vote: then Brexiteers suggest that the EU should agree that a 500km external border with more than 200 crossing points should be be unpoliced. People and goods should pass over it without hindrance. Smugglers and gun-runners should be allowed to go about their business unmolested. Small companies will not have customs checks; large ones will operate solely on trust: they will voluntarily declare the goods they have moved and pay their duties afterwards.

US beef (hormone-enhanced, of course), Australian lamb, Chinese steel and Indian cars could be imported into Belfast, sent an hour down the road to Dundalk and exported tariff-free to France, Germany or any other EU country. The only way to stop this happening would be in effect to make Ireland itself a semi-detached member of the EU with all Irish exports subjected to customs controls at EU ports. And if the EU and Ireland refuse to agree to this, whose fault will it be, according to Mr Nicholls and his friends at the Morning Star? Why, the EU’s, of course!

Never mind that if the Brexiters’ demands to take back control of immigration to the UK are meant seriously, the border would have to be heavily policed to keep EU migrants who have lawfully entered the Republic from moving into the UK. And it will run between Newry and Dundalk, between Letterkenny and Derry. The Dublin-Belfast train will have to stop for passport controls.

Never mind that May’s contortions on Ireland come down to the fact that her ‘red lines’ on the Customs Union and Single Market, flatly contradict her ‘red line’ that there can be no hard border in Ireland, and similarly no new border down the Irish Sea. These conditions are not reconcilable. If Britain, including Northern Ireland has different standards and regulations in relation to goods and services circulating inside its borders, either produced in whole or in part, inside its borders, or imported from elsewhere in the world, then it is clear that the EU will need to undertake checks on all of those goods and services, before they are allowed into the EU, to ensure that they comply with EU standards.

Never mind that last December, in order to give a guarantee that there would be no hard border, Theresa May agreed a “back stop” position based upon enabling Northern Ireland to remain inside the Customs Union and Single Market and that, despite reiterating this commitment in March, May is now reneging upon it under pressure from the DUP and her own hard-line Brexiteers.

Never mind that May’s claim that no British Prime Minister “could possibly agree to Northern Ireland being separated from the rest of the UK” is patent nonsense, given that the UK does have different laws and regulations in Northern Ireland already with regard to gay marriage and abortion rights.

The Little Englanders who comprise the Tory Government and the Brexiteer movement didn’t think about Ireland during the referendum campaign because they don’t care about Ireland.

They articulated their vision for Brexit – a brave new world in which all of their fervent nationalistic delusions would become reality – and expect the Irish (North and South) to simply roll over and let them get on with it.

The wails of despair you now hear from senior Tories and their supporters, as the reality of securing Brexit proves much more difficult than merely holding a referendum, is the sound of those dreams dying. Meanwhile, the pro-Brexit “left” like Mr Nicholls and the Morning Star join in with the wailing, blaming Johnny Foreigner in Brussels and the ungrateful Irish in Dublin.

    • The author would like to acknowledge the enormous debt he owes to Fintan O’Toole of the Irish Times, by far the best-informed writer on Brexit and its effects on relations between Ireland and Britian.

 

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5 thoughts on “Brexit: Morning Star’s post-imperial delusions towards Ireland

  1. You have to laugh at Paddy Nat sis after killing Protestants for a pure Catholic Ireland. Now they want the EU tae run the show.

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  2. A sane letter (not from yrs truly either) in today’s Morning Star!

    MY DISAPPOINTMENT at the tone and content of contributions, letters and even editorials on Brexit in the paper has long since turned to despair.
    Most of your contributors might as well be writing from the same address as Leave voters such as Farage, Johnson and Rees-Muggins, as they seem to imagine that a Leave vote means that we have abolished capitalism and has paved the way to socialism in one country — not sure that worked out too well before — and that we can have nice juicy trade deals with that lovely Mr Trump, the cuddly Chinese and the poisoner-in-chief Putin.
    Really? Think supplicant and you might be getting closer to reality. I agree with the analysis of the EU as (in shorthand) a capitalist club, with all its problems.
    But how anyone imagines jumping into the shark-infested waters of global capitalism and condemning the country to 50 or more years of economic disaster is an improvement: well, cloud cuckooland might be too kind a description.
    — SANDY MacPHERSON, Ilkley

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  3. From the new issue of Solidarity:

    The Border in Ireland has never made democratic sense. It was drawn to maximise the “little Orange empire” for the
    Protestant-Unionists of the north east in the 1921 partition of Ireland. It has been a running sore for almost a century.

    To this day, along almost all its length, the majority of the population on the Northern side of the Border is “Catholic”, Irish-Irish rather than British-Irish in its identity.

    The Border makes no political or human sense now. For a long time there have been no border checks. Over 30,000 people cross the border each day to travel to work, and tens of thousands more to shop, to deliver or collect supplies for work, to visit friends, etc
    .
    Thanks more to the piecemeal, economic-first integration worked by the European Union than to any merits of the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, since about 2005 what was a string of military checkpoints has become an “almost invisible” frontier.

    Some of the clauses of the Good Friday Agreement (GFA), written when negotiators on all sides assumed that Britain and the Republic of Ireland were in the EU permanently, contain guarantees relying on EU jurisdiction
    (see Jim Denham’s article above). To re-erect the border would be a big step backwards, rekindling communal conflict, putting pressure on the many vulnerable points in the bureaucratic contraptions of Northern Ireland politics under the GFA.

    The people of Northern Ireland, Catholic and Protestant alike, don’t want that. The Republic of Ireland doesn’t want it. The EU doesn’t want it. Even the Tories say they don’t want it. But when they decided to go for Brexit, they didn’t
    think through the consequences for Ireland, and now they’re scrabbling for a fudge or a technological trick.

    Polls suggest that in the case of a Brexit rehardening the Border, a majority in Northern Ireland would vote for a united Ireland. EU citizenship would give them better rights than non-EU British citizenship.

    Just by itself that wouldn’t settle the issue. A united Ireland would have to provide regional autonomy for the mainly “Protestant” (British-Irish) north-east. It would be more difficult to achieve if Britain quits the EU and
    British-Irish people in north-east Ireland see a united Ireland, inside the EU, as putting new barriers between them and Britain.

    Other longstanding obstacles to Irish unity have been eroded over the decades. The Republic of Ireland, with same-sex marriage and the referendum to remove the abortion ban from the constitution, is not the priest-ridden,
    bishop-ruled, heavily-Catholic state of the past.

    The South used to be less economically developed than the comparatively-industrialised North; now it has higher incomes and more dynamic industry.

    Now is the time for a political push to build on those social and economic trends, to combat the Brexit political
    moves to reverse and disrupt them, and to drive for a federal united Ireland, linked with Britain within the EU.
    And why not a united Ireland?

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    1. The hard border is a red herring by the EU. All that is required is the EU accept the status quo. If the UK crashes out the British will not set up a hard border. The EU will and blame, the British.
      Since the exposure of the perverts that were really running ROI since 1922 and who refused to fight fascism it does make the Irish border relevant. The USA had tens of thousands of troops in Ulster training for D Day while the ROI kept friendly relations with Adolf.

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