Current Affairs Politics

The Daily Beast Gets It Wrong On Ireland And The UK Brexit

Nico Hines, the London editor of The Daily Beast, has co-written a rather misleading article on the question of the United Kingdom’s retreat from the European Union with the sinister headline “Irish and Scottish Nationalists Plotting to Break Up U.K.“. Really? According to the piece, the UK’s chaotic exit from the EU has led:

…Irish nationalists to believe they can seize on renewed border disputes to secure a referendum on the reunification of Ireland. A senior Irish nationalist told The Daily Beast: “It’s all being driven by Brexit.”

The campaign for a united Ireland is being led by Sinn Féin… A party insider boasted to The Daily Beast that they had been stunned by their ability to combat the British government’s position from the heart of Europe. “We didn’t expect to have such a strong hand,” he said.

Sinn Féin is a member of the European United Left–Nordic Green Left parliamentary grouping in Brussels, which has one of six seats on the Brexit steering group. “[Our representative] has more or less come to us for their direction so we have been able to shape a lot. The language on the special status, the backstop has more or less come in from us,” a party official said.

…a Sinn Féin party member was chosen as the staffer to work for the group’s Brexit representative. A Brussels official told The Daily Beast: “It’s widely agreed that Sinn Féin have been the driving force in the European Parliament.”

The strict terms on the Irish backstop—an issue that was first pushed by Sinn Féin, which began to draw up studies into the compatibility of the Good Friday Agreement and E.U. treaties—have proved anathema to the hard Brexiteers.

Unfortunately the claims above are incorrect. The origins of the Backstop Protocol in the Draft Withdrawal Agreement can be found in the final months of 2017 and the torturous negotiations between Dublin and Brussels on one hand and London on the other, during which all sides agreed to the inclusion of “Option C” in any subsequent treaty. This was a short clause declaring the need for continued regulatory alignment between Britain’s legacy colony in the north-east of the Ireland and the rest of the island to protect the delicate post-war peace in the region. This understanding eventually became the “backstop”, which initially applied to the Six Counties until the UK insisted on its expansion to include the UK-proper. Sinn Féin was certainly not the “driving force” on that deal, which grew organically out of the debates between European and British officials, albeit greatly aided by the confusion and ineptitude of the latter contingent.

The Irish government and much of Dublin’s political class has come to the conclusion that the possibility of a “hard border” around the disputed British territory in the north of the country represents something of an existential threat to the stability of the State. The principal proponent of that position has been Fine Gael, a party with a strong sense of historical “ownership” over the security of the State, a traditional sentiment which has been latterly coupled with a form of almost neo-liberal “New Ireland” nationalism under its contemporary leadership. In truth, for a majority of FG politicians the worse outcome of Brexit would be a Partition 2.0 or a Reunification 2.0. The challenge for the government of Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney is that in steering the nation clear of the first it is inevitably skirting close to the latter. And so far, Sinn Féin has just been another passenger in that journey.

10 comments on “The Daily Beast Gets It Wrong On Ireland And The UK Brexit

  1. That’s some misunderstanding/mischaracterisation on their part of the reality.


    • Irish reality through the unreality prism of the publication’s local correspondents in the UK. Unfortunately much US reporting falls into the same category. And as I always point out, if we can shake our heads in bemusement or stare in disbelief at reporting on Ireland, what on earth are those same news organisations telling us about far more complex subjects like Syria, Iran, Venezuela, and so on that we know little to nothing of?


      • I think the tendency for some people is to just assume “The Brits know better than we do.” Ironically Conservative Southerners and The Terminally Hip are two of the most susceptible groups to the “British just seem more intelligent than we are.” syndrome.


        • I often think that re reporting on other parts of the world. Or even, in fairness here or the UK by journalists based here or the UK. Because say a Dublin view can be so limited. Or a London one too.

          +1 Grace.


          • There is one easy-to-overlook fact about The US….It started out as a British colony. It has been suggested that American culture has a post-colonial side that tends to get overlooked due to its wealth and power.

            Two arguments that I see as having some truth run:

            1) The US truly gained it’s post-colonial complex in the aftermath of The Civil War.

            2) Anericans are in somewhat more like the Russian people with the whole “slavophile vs zapadnik” then most other members of The Former British Colony Club”. The relation to Britain just isn’t the same as countries like Australia or Canada that have a more affirmative sense of Britishness, or alternately countries where Britain’s abuses were more serious than “taxation without representation”.

            But whatever the reason Americans on the whole can be extremely susceptible to deferring to British judgements.


            • So in a way it’s a cosmetic deferral? Due to the relationship being different? And the sense on the part of so many that they don’t have, due to immigrating from elsewhere etc, a link of any sort to Britain in the first place. Not to ignore the African American or those who were there to begin with.


              • I would not describe it as cosmetic, at all.. It’s a different animal than post-colonialism in Ireland, or India on the one hand or Australia and Canada on the other. But it’s definitely not cosmetic.

                Remember that this is a country where The Revolutionaries were in a thin majority of English or Scots Irish heritage, as there were definitely Germans, Dutch French, and more involved. And there were whole Indian nations and thousands of African Americans fighting on both sides as well.

                Then they essentially created a new nation-many in Europe had major doubts that a country with “no history” could make and and just under a century later it almost didn’t make it due to The Civil War.

                So I’ve already made it clear that it’s really a myth that “only white people” can be influenced by The US’s post-colonial background. And later immigrants often came from former or current British colonies or nations with ties to Britain, or nations with an aristocracy much like Britain’s or a post-colonial history with France or Spain.

                I definitely noticed certain things long before it occurred to me I could be looking at post-colonialism.

                As a campaigner out for electoral college reform, I will get a lot of people who hear my pitch, and heave a big sigh “Until we completely rewrite the Constitution entirely and get a Westminster style Parliament I can’t imagine anything is going to change. I really hate to rain on your parade but I don’t think what you want is going to matter. Presidential systems just suck, British Parliament is the real gold standard..”

                I also get loads of people who become hostile and say things like “People like you don’t appreciate our Constitution!!! You want to make us just like Europe. Unpatriotic scum like you…unprintable….kind of a*******e who spat on our boys coming back from ‘Nam…..go back to Russia….and more.”

                Of course there are plenty of legitimate questions and things everyone learned in school too.

                Since I have studied Russian language and culture it reminded me of the whole “slavophile vs zapadnik” thing. I am far from the first to make that observation…..but it had to be pointed out to me that maybe what I was seeing was an unusual form of post-colonialism, and so was a lot of what I had seen in the anti-war movement.


  2. The Daily Beast is for people who just have to be “too hip for their own good”. To not be properly cynical about all sides involved would be too “uncool”.


  3. The Daily Beast is for people who just have to be “too hip for their own good”. To not be properly cynical about all sides involved in something like this would be “too uncool” for them.


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