MARTIN KETTLE. A special place in hell? Donald Tusk didn’t go far enough.

Not only were the Brexiters clueless: they didn’t give a stuff about Ireland. But this will come back to haunt the Tories

Donald Tusk should be criticised not for his malice, but his moderation. The European council president triggered a tsunami of confected outrage from leavers today when he observed, with some justice, that there should be a special place in hell for those who promoted Brexit without a plan. But he should have said far more. He should have added that, within that special place, there should be an executive suite of sleepless torment for those politicians who promoted Brexit without ever giving a stuff about Ireland.

Once again, Brexit is all coming down to Ireland. This was always going to happen, and rightly so. Time after time in our history, Ireland emerges as an awkward reality check that shames the fantasies of those who think the British are better and that Ireland can be ignored. So there is something both fateful and tragic about the fact Theresa May should have prepared for the final showdown by having to make a rare visit to Ireland.

It wasn’t meant to be this way. For the Brexiters, the leaving of Europe was never about Ireland at all. Brexit was about sovereignty, about greatness, or about not liking too many foreigners living here. It was about throwing off the yoke of Brussels and bringing back blue passports. Ireland barely got a look-in during the debates of 2016, save when John Major – yawn, yawn – and Tony Blair – hiss, boo – pointed out from lifetimes of experience that Brexit would threaten the Northern Ireland peace agreements.

Their warnings fell on stony ground, except, not irrelevantly, in Northern Ireland itself, where the majority voted to remain. This was a deeply embarrassing outcome for the Brexiters. Surely a place that wraps itself in the union jack so often would be full-hearted for a Brexit project that did exactly the same? When the Northern Ireland voters failed to oblige, the Brexiters did what fantasists do. They pretended that it hadn’t happened. In this, they were of course assisted by May’s decision, after the 2017 election, to make a pact with the Democratic Unionists, the only important Northern Ireland party to support leaving the EU.

Then came the backstop, designed to prevent a hard border, which is now incorporated into the withdrawal agreement. The political intimacy that has grown up in recent months between the Tory Brexiters and the DUP might lead the unwary to assume they look at the issues in the same way. But they do not, as the backstop repeatedly shows. It is an opportunists’ alliance, nothing more, nothing less. It cannot and will not hold.

The DUP hates the backstop because nationalists support it. They pretend that it could cause regulatory divergence between Britain and Northern Ireland – though they support divergence on issues such as criminal law and some tax issues. They see Dublin’s hand at work everywhere. But the DUP did not get where it is today by compromising with Irish nationalism. So, if Sinn Féin and the SDLP in the north are in favour of the backstop, and if Dublin is in favour too, then the DUP is hardwired to be against it. Their position is tribal.

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3 Responses to MARTIN KETTLE. A special place in hell? Donald Tusk didn’t go far enough.

  1. Malcolm Crout says:

    This arrived in my inbox which aptly describes the undemocratic processes in the UK from Bill Mitchell, a well known Australian Economist. The UK will be well rid of the EU in years to come. The initial Brexit pains will be well worth it to UK Citizens :
    http://bilbo.economicoutlook.net/blog/?p=41537&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+economicoutlook%2FFYvo+%28billy+blog%29

  2. Malcolm Crout says:

    The Guardian has been anti Brexit from the outset. None of their dire predictions have come true as the UK enjoys improved employment, improved GDP growth, outstanding new productive investment numbers, while the EU wallows in recession and some may say in the case of the PIGS, actual depression. Growth in the EU is heading South while the Europhiles claim a wonderful state of affairs through the Likes of Tusk and his EU cronies. It’s easy for the unelected to lie as they are never held to account unlike elected politicians. Things maybe great for the elites who plundered Greece, but for the ordinary citizens not so good. Has the author heard of the Gilet movement or the imminent crumbling of Italian banks not to mention the wastelands of abandoned development sites blighting Europe caused by the EU created GFC? How about 70 % unemployment for under 25’s cohort?

    Rather than dealing in facts, we get the usual stories about the dubious numbers of firms leaving the UK – now 34 ………. they’ve left it a bit late! The sailing of cruise liners away from Southampton (shock horror) is hardly a result of Brexit, but a choice by the corporates running the cruise industry to embark and disembark at ports according to cruise plans developed to attract customers and not because of the border checks which are non existent anyway.

    Not satisfied with this breathless panic we are directed to events occurring over 150 years ago in Parliament with respect to Ireland …… as if this actually means anything today. I would hardly count on the DUP to provide a backstop for current public opinion considering their shady operations. Then of course UK citizens are derided for wanting to protect their sovereign borders as though they are children not competent enough to decide their own destinies. A bit of immigration hysteria bordering on racism is thrown in to top off the insults in case we had any doubts as to the moral backbone of the person constructing this article which is high on conjecture and low on evidence. How about he publishes at the comparative economic statistics?

    The only reality of the predictions is that it will be a period of reconstruction for the UK people, corporates and industry, but in my view it will be worth it to shake of the economic drag created by the EU and the EMU. The great fear of the EU elites is that an eventual successful Brexit will reverberate with their suffering landlocked nation states who may want to emulate the UK and take back their own sovereignity.

    The author doesn’t like what is happening in the UK? Simple. Move to Europe.

  3. ANDREW FARRAN says:

    Both situations, then and now, threatened Tory Party unity. Whereas Peel put national (and Irish needs) ahead of Tory Party interests – and lost the subsequent election – it remains to be seen whether May will do the same with a similar fate.
    Probably she will have to concede or lose control over the Parliamentary process because of Jeremy Corbyn’s proposal this weekend which contains all of the essential elements of a rational withdrawal agreement and which could command enough cross-party support and thereby prevent a no-deal crash out.
    This will go on unresolved for another two or three weeks or longer if May’s plan is to run down the clock until the cliff is faced or to advance some reason to extend Art 50 (which would now appear unavoidable). What we do know is that the public is not being told the truth and it is costing.

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