An interesting discussion on Brexit chaired by the Scottish newspaper columnist Lesley Riddoch, featuring the Irish author Fintan O’Toole and his English counterpart, Anthony Barnett. The main focus of the video recording is on England and the possible origins of its exaggerated europhobia.
As an aside, in relation to an audience question on the Irish reaction to the British decision to leave the European Union, I had my own discussion on this matter quite recently with four politically-engaged career women in their mid-twenties from what is euphemistically known in Ireland as “respectable families”. Despite their affluent middle-class backgrounds, I was surprised by the strength of their well-informed feelings on Britain and its behaviour during Theresa May’s withdrawal negotiations with the EU. Their interpretations were wholly negative, much of it based on the preponderance of racist sentiment publicly expressed by a subset of pro-Leave voters, commentators and politicians in England. Added to this was their disgust that the “misogynistic” and “homophobic” Democratic Unionist Party or DUP had been “handed” significant influence over the Conservative Party government in London.
What I wasn’t expecting to hear was the observation that if the UK’s Brexit plan led to the revival of a hard border around the Six Counties at the behest of the DUP and Tory Brexiteers, resulting in renewed political or economic uncertainty for this island, the only viable solution for the country would be to “…take back the north”, to much nodding of heads and declarations of agreement. Indeed, it was suggested that the British and the “Loyalists” would be the ones to blame for “restarting the Troubles”.
Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to ask what precisely was meant by “take back” the north, though its forceful nature and immediate popularity certainly makes for some interesting speculation. Was it a reference to the need for a referendum on reunification in the event of a hard Brexit by the United Kingdom? Or was it a willingness to countenance the use of different methods by others to achieve national unity?
Have we moved on so far in cultural time and political space from the era of the Troubles that it has become simply another chapter in the history books to a generation of men and women almost brusquely confident and comfortable in their Irish and European identity, young people who will have no truck with the toxic British interference of old in Ireland’s affairs? Or those who would seek to make an accommodation with it?
Well nearly 100 years of Independence, decades of “Celtic Tiger” (even if it’s a sick cat these days), and 20 years of the GFA would tend to have precisely those effects. Get a few generations who are used to a reasonably functional Democracy, some children’s rights (vs Magdalene Laundries and beatings at school) and at least some hope for a better future that doesn’t involve emigration……and it shouldn’t be some big surprise.
The Troubles were a terrible thing, but there comes a point where it shouldn’t be a younger generation’s burden. They should know about it, for sure, but it’s unhealthy to make past tragedies the sole reference for what should be done now.
Heck, I look at people who were no older than 16 when Obama was elected, and I can see notable difference simply because they don’t remember life before the Obamcare (although luckily they are terrified of Trump bringing those days back, rather than complacent) or when suggesting a black or female President might happened in the 21st century would have invited a nice rude laugh in your face.
So sure I’d accept that a new generation is more confident. Absolutely!!!
The problem is Grace that Brexit will not bring a functioning democracy.
In the case of Ireland, both north and south it will only serve to negatively impact on wealth, prosperity and social inclusion. Yes the north of Ireland, or Northern Ireland as the Brexiteers would have it, is today in conjunction with the south a fairly normally functioning community. But put a wall across the country and all that stops. The symbolism could not be greater nor the impacts that a border will cause. Two separate states with restrictions on trade and people.
But do the Brexiteers care. No they don’t. Indeed, in conjunction with their BritNat counterparts in the DUP many see this as an opportunity to regain British sovereignty in the north. Indeed, being fully aware of the economic impacts of the border, the very same thinking sees the economic damage as being an opportunity to bring the ROI on leash.
In NI they used to say that it was a Protestant state for a Protestant people. But the same type of apartheid thinking is now extant in Britain where the foreigner or the poor are the enemy of the state. And all the while the new British order puts in ever more extensive surveillance and control measures.
And in Scotland, the very same forces seek to destabilise the independence movement. Rolling back the powers of the Scottish Parliamentt and disregarding the hard won devolution settlements, they further disregard the expressed democratic wishes of the people whereby the nationalists control the Scottish Parliament, have 60% of the quota of Scottish MPs at Westminster, control most of the councils, and have an electorate that voted 62% in favour of continuing membership of the EU – and who would now vote with an even greater margin.
Indeed with the Scottish independence referendum being narrowly lost in the last few days of the campaign of 2014 it is not difficult to see how recently an unfounded Charles Stuart Parnell style smear has emerged to malign Alex Salmond who is pushing to ask once again ask Scotland the question again on where it wants to be. Things have moved on since 2014, and opinion polls now indicate that there is now a majority for independence.
Like Ireland north and south Scots like being part of a community where people and good can move and trade freely. They do not wish to be part of a Scotland dragged out of Europe against its will and with a Westmister government that it did not vote for. Their is now real poverty in Scotland where austerity is biting hard. Being out of the EU will only increase that in a country that in truth has plenty. But that is why England wants to hold onto Scotland. With its energy wealth, fishing resource, agricultural resource, and high tech industries, Scotland as a colony contributes handsomely to the English purse.
The answer of course to all of this is a United Ireland and an independent Scotland. People of all persuasions want to move forward, to grow the economy, to live peacefully, to prosper. Another Scottish referendum and an Irish border referendum is for many now a necessity. Let England get on with tearing itself apart and let Scotland and Ireland get on with being independent nations within the EU.
That way our young will have a future.
The UK national debt grows at a rate of £5,170 per second! So who really needs a deal???