Such is the pace of the Brexit beast as it charges towards the no-deal cliffs, by the time I publish this article it might well be out of date. But as of now it seems likely that the United Kingdom will be contesting the transnational elections to the European Parliament in May. That raises several interesting problems, not least for this country as a large question mark now hangs over the extra parliamentary seats Ireland gained in the reallocation of representation at Strasbourg. The same issue will confront other member states of the European Union and could lead to legal challenges in several jurisdictions: including here. As things stand, this confusion might work in the favour of Mark Durkan, the former leader of the regional SDLP and Fine Gael’s “all-Ireland” candidate in Dublin. If voters decide that the extra seat in the capital is more theoretical than real, they might be tempted to slip the Derryman a few transfers out of solidarity with northern nationalists and to give the middle finger to the DUP and the Brexiteers in the UK. Stranger things have happened in Irish politics.
Paradoxically, Mark Durkan would have been an ideal EuroParl candidate for the SDLP in the north-east of the country. During the heightened emotions and likely chaos of a “Brexit election” he might well have attracted enough non-aligned or moderate unionist votes to take a second seat for northern nationalists. One has to wonder who the SDLP (and Fianna Fáil) will put forward in the Six Counties to fight for that extra seat, given that Sinn Féin and the DUP will certainly retain their own representations in Europe. It’s the third position, currently held by Jim Nicholson MEP of the Ulster Unionist Party, that may be vulnerable. Could a veteran or high-profile southern or cross-border candidate take it?
Update: Mark Francois MP, the chair of the Conservative Party’s now infamous European Research Group (ERG) and the wannabe general of the Brexit diehards in Britain, with a defiant warning to the European Council from his Anderson Shelter beneath College Green, just outside the Palace of Westminster:
“This is the 21st century and you cannot hold a nation captive against their will. There is no point granting a temporary extension to kick the can down the road in the hope that we will finally ratify the withdrawal agreement, as we never will.
If, however, you attempt to hold us in the European Union against the democratically expressed will of the British people then, in return, we will become a “Trojan horse” within the EU, which would utterly derail all your attempts to pursue a more federal project.
A new Conservative government, led by someone like Boris Johnson or Dominic Raab, might vote down your budget, veto your attempts at greater military integration, and generally make it impossible for you to bring about the more federal project in which you so desperately believe” …
So my earnest message to the European council is simple. Brexit has already gone on long enough.
If you now try to hold on to us against our will, you will be facing Perfidious Albion on speed. It would therefore be much better for all our sakes if we were to pursue our separate destinies, in a spirit of mutual respect.
As Boris Johnson recently quoted Moses’ warning to Pharaoh – “Let my people go!”