A Lucid Talk poll caught people’s attention recently by being the first ever which indicated support in Northern Ireland for a “United Ireland”. Now, the poll was very specific – would people vote to remain in the EU via a United Ireland (implicitly, if that were the only way to do so as per the 1998 Agreement) in the event of a Hard Brexit. Nevertheless, the direction of travel is clear – the DUP’s ludicrous determination to “unite Unionism” is in fact being just as successful at “uniting non-Unionism” – a whopping 57% of “others” (who now account for 12-15% of the electorate – and the crucial balance at that) told the poll that they would prefer the EU over the UK.
After all if, as in the DUP’s world, the Unionist wife of a former RUC Chief Constable is “one of them”, that doesn’t leave too many of “us”…
It is interesting, therefore, that it is in fact the EU, with Ireland at the forefront, which is saving the UK from itself – and indeed that this is something that could not happen without the existence of Northern Ireland.
The UK, led of course by England and Wales, has embarked on a profoundly ideological act of lunacy, aimed not just at leaving the EU but at cutting itself off from the world entirely. The populist nativism of the most crazed Brexiteers should, in any rational country, have rebounded on them by now, because their base argument has been shown to be utterly wrong and they have thus committed the most outrageous U-turn. Their basic original argument was that “the EU need us more than we need them” (this was backed up neither by data nor common sense); having found out clearly that this is the obvious nonsense anyone rational already knew it to be, they then embarked on a strategy of “Just leave anyway”!
The truth, actually, is that (from a trade, research, security, geopolitical and every other point of view) the UK needs the EU whereas the EU merely wants the UK. Just because this is unpalatable to British nationalists does not make it untrue. Yet the latter point is important.
Because in fact the EU does want the UK – at least in some sort of partnership – it has embarked on a strategy which, while not without fault, has a perfectly laudable aim. Basically, the UK should go but the partnership should be maintained. In order to achieve this, there should first be a basic agreement of principles (even of the worst case scenario); there should then be a transition; and there should then be a sensible Trade Deal (actually, this would be better referred to as a “Partnership Agreement” as it will go well beyond trade – even the UK has already accepted it should, for example, include common aviation regulations).
So while the UK Government blunders on clueless, claiming it has impact assessments which have no impact and are not assessments for example, the EU is busy saving the partnership – because it does of course want one. Ireland has in fact played a key role (although it should be noted for the record that even it is considerably less reliant on trade with the UK than the UK is with the EU) in holding the line, almost literally, to ensure basic principles around the border – including broad ones around North-South cooperation and consequent alignment of regulations – are maintained come what may. Work back from there (as Fintan O’Toole notes, like Sherlock Holmes you start with the impossible and go with whatever is left) and you end up with the UK aligned to the EU in a range of ways which leave a partnership intact. That is what the EU will do.
Of course, when this is finished, we will be left to wonder what the point is of leaving in the first place…