Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Brexit Angst, Ireland, Impotence And All That

A couple of months ago, I was all 'Brexit, meh', especially when I tried to register to vote in the referendum and was informed I was ineligible because I've lived overseas more than 15 years.

Yup. Disenfranchised. I suddenly and inexplicably feel like throwing myself under a race horse.

It's incredible how disempowering the Internet can be when it's put in the hands of British civil servants. The language is all 'Right, guys, let's help you out here' and the stark reality is Colditz.

Over the last few weeks I have become increasingly concerned. And my feeling of absolute impotence has nothing to do with the fact that my minuscule vote, my only puny weapon in this pointless game that's been labelled 'democracy', has been torn away from me. It's that I genuinely believe my countrymen are stupid enough to vote to leave the EU and it's giving me the thundering heebie-geebies.

Sarah and I started looking at the consequences for us, for starters. We own property in the UK mainland and Northern Ireland. Sarah's Irish. I'm English. We face the very real prospect of a 'hard' border being established between Ireland and Northern Ireland as a result of Brexit.

Take a second to let that sink in. Never has Ireland been so united in the past two centuries as it is today. Irish people - as well as British people and, in fact, European people - are free to move around, settle in, shop in and generally live in the whole of Ireland. If we Brexit, that'll end. There'll be a border between North and South for the first time since Mo Mowlam whipped those churlish boys into shape as she was dying of cancer.

Irish Premier Enda Kenny filed a neat piece in today's Guardian, where he points out that we enjoy a WEEKLY trade of some £900 million between our two nations. Ireland is the only land border the UK has with another EU country. When that border becomes a real one, with cameras, customs officers and troops and stuff, we'll be plunged back to the North/South divide. That trade will be monumentally disrupted. All that tosh about £350 million a week to Europe pales in comparison, even if it were a true and a fair picture which it most certainly is not.

A hard border across Ireland? Where we've been busily tearing down walls for the past twenty-odd years? We'll be back to the Troubles faster than you can say A Decent Bomber*. Ireland will once again become partitioned and divided. A two-state solution imposed on a workable, wobbly but tenable one-state compromise. Neat.

I'm told there are something like a million Irish people living and working in London alone. Something like 5.5 million people in Britain are of Irish origin. One of our early 'migrant communities' they have enriched our nation and integrated into our society so much that we're practically mates these days. That's quite the miracle, 'cos when I was growing up, they were Paddies and they were stupid. We're over that now and we've learned to rub along a way lot better than we did in the days of 'No Dogs, No Blacks, No Irish'. I'd say there's a degree of mutual respect and even camaraderie these days. Even if 1847 does still tend to crop up now and then...

As Kenny says of Ireland and the UK in the context of our respective roles in Europe, "The UK and Ireland are like-minded on EU matters, and the process of working together in Brussels has built an immense store of knowledge, personal relationships and trust between our governments."

It's interesting that across Europe, our forced multiculturalism is about chickens coming home to roost. The Germans have Turkish Gastarbeiters, the Dutch Indonesians, the French Pieds Noirs and we British, we have Bangladeshis, Pakistanis, Indians, Caribbeans and Irish. Dominion it seems is a two ways street. It's funny how we created, or colluded in the creation of, the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria and yet we're so squeamish about accepting the consequences of our export of violence and terror. We, of all people, should have learned. When you break other people's countries, their vulnerable come to you for help.

So we're not exactly bullish on this Brexit thing. There are a lot of other reasons why Europe has been very good to the UK and continues to be a good thing. But this one aspect of a highly complex argument alone is enough to have us running scared. The rest of it, if you're even vaguely interested, I'll be chatting about on tomorrow's Business Breakfast show on Dubai Eye Radio from around 08.20am Dubai Time. You can stream it live by following that there link.

*See what I did there?

1 comment:

Macthomson said...

Yeah... I saw!

But I also read, and share your concern.

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