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Friday, 1 December 2017

The Future of Britain and Ireland; and the Relevance of Donald Trump

Five Tory MPs yesterday labelled themselves even more firmly as people who were willing to risk the economic future of the United Kingdom outside the carapace of the European Economic Area. They also accepted - whether or not they see it in those terms - the possibility of a recurrence of the 'war' waged over centuries by the IRA and its precursors. By refusing to recognise that the only secure way to carry forward the peace accords that have been achieved in Ireland since 1970 is for the UK and Ireland to remain integral to the the Common Market, these people have exposed the entire population of both islands to a very real danger.

I have repeatedly pointed out in this blog that by subsuming enough of the identities of the two states in a community it was made possible for Britain to put huge subsidies into Ireland [via various European funds] that were sufficient eventually to secure the Good Friday Agreement. It would be insanity to reverse that process; and it is fervently to be hoped that by remaining in the same economic space - even without the UK participating in the political European Union - the peace can be maintained. The majority of the Commons committee on Brexit sensibly agreed that the half-baked notions for a sham land border between the Irish Republic and the UK, secured by unachievable and unaffordable IT, would never be satisfactory. Unless the Tory party can formally decouple leaving the European Union from remaining in the European Economic Area, there is no 'cast iron' means of securing an open border in Ireland.

It is - literally - a matter of life or death for the DUP to insist that Northern Ireland is fully part of the UK [for as long as the present peace and constitutional status can be maintained]. They must oppose any half-witted pretence that anything else will do.

The Irish government and its 26 associates in the European Union would be wildly irresponsible not to make this point: and, if necessary, make it the sticking point in the upcoming EU summit. It is a moot point whether Mrs May understands this issue.

Meanwhile, the British political class has united to excoriate the US President for riding out his ego by quoting from a fringe right-wing political outfit in the UK, The publicity of this episode has apparently caused a rush of interest in the group [which I will avoid naming], including a rush of membership applications. That issue may have caused bad feeling in the egotist in the White House, and has certainly increased the misplaced contempt that the British Grauniadistas express for him; but it is not the most important nor the most relevant point. The election of Trump to the presidency was the consequence of a massively effective populist campaign. Trump promised to 'make America great again' and one of the preferred ways of doing that is to discriminate against imports. The UK is not a massive importer of goods into the US; but the UK is probably still second to the USA in the generation and worldwide diffusion of intellectual property, especially in fields of culture, entertainment and key areas of scientific innovation. Any idea that Britain will be pushed to the front of some queue for special access to US markets is dafter fantasy than the idea that some cosmetic 'solution' will resolve the Irish border question. If the UK economy is not within the European Common Market, it will be out in the cold. It will shrivel, living standards will collapse and any idea of renewing economic growth through investment will be an impossible dream.

We have very little time to 'get real'. The shortest route to sense is to separate the vote to 'leave the European Union' from the Tory minority's obsession that this rolls-in the ideas of leaving the Common Market and the economic area. No second referendum is necessary: just a dose of common sense.

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