‘Little Ireland’ jibes part of Brexit Britain’s tantrum over not getting its way

‘Little Ireland’ jibes part of Brexit Britain’s tantrum over not getting its way

Serious strains are beginning to show in the normally friendly relationship between Ireland and the UK.

Of course, it’s always been a bit of a rollercoaster. Things were bad during the Troubles but thankfully started to look up in the 1990s.

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British Prime Minister John Major did some great work to bring opposing sides together in Northern Ireland. Tony Blair built on Major’s achievements, enlisted the help of President Bill Clinton and forged unprecedented cooperation between the British and Irish governments to usher in the new dawn of the Good Friday Agreement, which has led to 21 years of peace since 1998.

During that time there was a renaissance in warm and friendly relations between the two great countries whose histories have been blighted by wars and rebellions for 800 years.

Now there are signs we may be going into reverse and the reason, of course, is Brexit.

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Ireland didn’t want Brexit, and the people of Northern Ireland even voted against it, but nevertheless it’s happening and it’s going to have a major impact on both sides of the border. And it’s that border that is the major point of contention.

One of the reasons the Good Friday Agreement was so successful is that it removed the hard border between north and south. Once the checkpoints manned by British soldiers were removed, the tension dropped. People could move freely without feeling they were in a controlled war zone.

But it was more than that. As Northern Ireland comedian Patrick Kielty has pointed out, the Good Friday Agreement performed a kind of magic trick: it allowed nationalists to feel they were Irish while allowing loyalists to continue believing they were British. That’s no mean feat.

Now Brexit threatens that fragile balance. The border between north and south now becomes the border between the UK and the EU. Customs checks will be necessary because there will be two different trading regimes with tariffs and different regulations.

All sides hope that a trade deal between the EU and the UK will mean that there is no need to return to physical customs checks, the so-called hard border. The former British Prime Minister Theresa May agreed to a backstop, which meant that the UK would stay largely aligned with EU regulations to prevent the need for a hard border if no trade deal could be agreed.

Johnson and his hard Brexit colleagues hate that because they fear it will keep them tied to EU regulations indefinitely. They now demand that Ireland and the EU drop their insistence on the backstop as a condition of negotiating a trade deal. If the backstop is not removed, Johnson is threatening to leave the EU with no deal, even though that would have devasting economic consequences for all concerned.

As Britain’s hard core Brexiters slowly begin to realise that they can’t push Ireland around, their frustration is beginning to mount. This manifests itself with jibes about Ireland being unreasonable, or somehow betraying their old ally the UK.

Many Leave campaigners point out that Ireland is being unreasonable because a No Deal Brexit will cost Irish jobs, yet those same campaigners seem oblivious to the fact that it is the UK that is threatening No Deal, even though it will damage the UK far more than anyone else.

Some Brexiters have even claimed that Ireland’s insistence on the backstop amounts to treachery, given that Britain ‘bailed out’ the Irish government in 2010 shortly after the banking crisis. What they fail to point out is that this ‘bail out’ wasn’t a gift; it was a loan at a profitable interest rate. Far from coming to the aid of a friend as an act of goodwill, Britain simply spotted a money-making opportunity.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has revealed how many Brexit supporters in the Conservative Party are angry with Ireland for not deciding to follow the UK’s lead and leave the EU as well, as if Ireland should automatically follow Britain’s lead.

This quote from the Brexit and Conservative Party supporting newspaper the Daily Telegraph, shows the patronising attitude now being shown towards Ireland.

“Yet again we face a crisis of democracy, with little Ireland and the huge EU refusing to recognise the democratic decision of the United Kingdom to leave the European Union.”

What nonsense! Of course, Ireland and rest of the EU recognises the UK’s decision to leave. What they don’t recognise or accept is the Brexiters’ delusional belief that Britain is so important that it should be allowed to keep all the benefits of membership even after it has left.

Nor do they accept that everyone should bow to Britain’s will and that failing to do so is somehow bullying it or trying to deny its democratic right.

Sadly, as the October 31 deadline for No Deal looms, we can expect more anti-Irish rhetoric from desperate British Brexiters.

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Brian Boru is known as the last High King of Ireland and is even credited with seeing off the Vikings who had terrorised the Irish for over 200 years. Find out more.