It has become standard fare among left-wing activists and politicians in the United Kingdom to accuse the political editor of the BBC News, Laura Kuenssberg, of being unduly close to the governing Conservative Party and its thinking on certain policy matters. Most of these accusations have seemed rather unfair, often based on overly-critical or hyper-sensitive interpretations of her reporting. That was especially true of her admittedly caustic reaction to the candidacy and early leadership of the Labour Party boss, Jeremy Corbyn, in 2015 and ’16. However she was hardly alone in that sentiment among the ranks of the British press, whether on the theoretical Right or Left.
Yet, one has to wonder at this worryingly conspiratorial analysis offered by Kuenssberg of the fractious Brexit negotiations between Britain and the European Union. Especially as they effect Ireland and the delicate, if now twenty-year-old peace in the UK-administered Six Counties. You are left with the strong impression that the BBC journalist is accurately summing up the British view of the “hard border” crisis which is worrying officials in Dublin and Brussels. But which their London counterparts seem to be almost dangerously blasé about.
While there are genuine and sincerely held logistical and understandable concerns about what happens to the Irish border after Brexit, there is a sense building that perhaps the Irish government is playing those concerns rather harder than is justified.
The DUP leader, Arlene Foster, using rather strong language, told off the Irish leader Leo Varadkar for doing just that today.
But the next step in what many would say is a conspiracy theory, borne out of Brexiteer desperation, is to ponder whether the EU as a whole is over-egging their true level of worry about what happens to the border.
The issue has in fact, so the theory goes, become the perfect “anti-UK” issue that can be waved around in the talks every now and then.
But according to these arguments, the border issue could be exploited by the EU side so they can later drop their concerns as a public concession to the UK, in return for a genuine concession from the British side.
There are whispers too that the previous government in Ireland had been discussing some potential solutions to the problem but after the change in political circumstances those conversations came to an end.
But in any negotiation both sides are looking for leverage. And in something as tense as this deal-making process, both sides’ positions are not exactly as they outwardly appear.
This is dangerous nonsense, and similar to the sort of delusional thinking which came from establishment Britain in the late 1960s and early ’70s when dealing with a serious political crisis of its own making. Namely the collapse of the ethno-religious apartheid-state established since the 1920s in the country’s legacy colony on the island of Ireland. A catalogue of errors by successive British governments during that period, often based on indifference, prejudice, paranoia or plain old racism, fanned the flames of communal violence in the disputed region into full-scale conflict. A conflict which was to last for the next three decades, until the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 and several subsequent peace accords brought it (largely) to an end. Given the UK’s determination to crash out of the EU and to hell with the consequences, one might well wonder if a new era of the “Troubles” is on the verge of reigniting, thanks to another round of British stupidity. Albeit a war with a fraction of the intensity of what came before.