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Brexit and the British border in Ireland


Ireland should follow Britain out of the EU — or it will come under effective Franco-German control while flying an EU flag, writes KEVIN McCORRY

A KEY reason for the hostility of the EU and the Irish government to Brexit and their intransigence on the artificially created problem of the Irish “backstop” is fear that if a real Brexit occurs — with Britain outside the EU customs union, single market and European Court of Justice jurisdiction — the Republic of Ireland will inevitably follow.

Continued EU membership by either the UK or the Republic of Ireland is in no way necessary to underpin the North-South co-operation within Ireland and the East-West co-operation between Ireland and Britain that the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) provides for.

To suggest otherwise is false. Naturally both states must honour their commitments under the agreement.

Given that one of the states has opted to leave the EU — something which is not prohibited by the GFA — continued good relations between the two close neighbours demand, even at this late stage, that the other must either do the same or enter into a bilateral agreement with the state leaving the EU to ensure the continuance of an open border.

So far Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s uncritical commitment to “Team EU” has made him utterly disdainful of any move in that direction.

Varadkar has consistently refused to listen to rational arguments on the “backstop.” The Irish Establishment has gone too far down the Eurofederalist road to turn back now.

But if there are new Irish border problems arising at this time, they do not stem from Britain’s democratic decision to leave the EU, but from the Irish government’s desire to remain in it, even though it is not in the Irish people’s interest to continue as citizens of the EU federal state-in-the-making, for they are already citizens of an Irish state.

Ireland applied to join the then EEC in 1961 because the UK did. Dublin did not want the North-South border within Ireland to become an EEC external frontier.

In 1973 it joined the EEC along with the UK for significantly the same reason. Now that the UK is leaving the EU, it is in Ireland’s interest to leave too — perhaps joining the European Economic Area for a period on the way — and thereby taking back control likewise of its laws, currency and borders; for there will be no significant benefits for Ireland from remaining in the EU if the UK leaves.

It is not in either Britain’s or Ireland’s military interest that the Republic should continue to subscribe to EU foreign and security policy — and the EU army now being mooted by Chancellor Angela Merkel — by remaining in the EU when Britain leaves.

If the Republic stays in the EU following Britain’s departure, a united Ireland at some future date would mean that the whole island would come under effective Franco-German military control while flying an EU flag.

The controversy over the “backstop” is at bottom one of the many long-term consequences of the 1920 partition of Ireland. For nearly a century now partition has done deep damage to the peoples of both countries.

In the current instance it is being used by the most reactionary elements of the British, Irish and EU Establishments to frustrate the progressive desire of the majority in the 2016 Brexit referendum to “take back control” of their law making, money and borders from the EU.

In essence partition is being used to foist reaction indirectly on the Brexit majority rather than directly on Ireland itself.

Democratic forces in Britain and Ireland have a clear political responsibility to make people aware of this reality at the core of Anglo-Irish relations.

Kevin McCorry is a member of the People’s Movement, Ireland. He was formerly secretary of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association.

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