Wednesday, 13 March 2019
Recent Developments on Brexit: Statements
We are witnessing the rather shambolic death throes of the great British Empire, as it would have seen itself. Given the blood and hardship for which that empire was responsible across the globe, one cannot be terribly sorry to see this decline. The rotten politics, which dominates the British Tory party and to which Theresa May has been hostage, is propelling us towards the ever more imminent possibility of a no-deal Brexit. It is quite hard to predict what will happen over the next while. However, whatever may happen, if it produces one effect, namely, the death and discrediting of that rotten little Englander politics with imperial aspirations, it would not be bad.
Beyond that, there is not much we can say about what will happen in the UK. They will probably vote for avoiding a no-deal Brexit but it does not mean anything because they can still crash into a no-deal scenario if a deal is not done. Whether it is done with or without an extension is difficult to say at this stage. Personally, I hope there is a general election in the UK soon and we get the Tories out because they are completely incapable of rational behaviour at this stage. They are torn by the rotten politics which dominates their thinking.
Beyond that, what will Ireland do, given the greater likelihood of a no-deal Brexit? For its own cynical reasons as part of the negotiating process, Britain has said that, at least for a period, it will not impose customs checks and a border between the North and South. Members should not get me wrong. I do not trust the Tories on that. Their position is full of contradictions and is part of a bargaining process which also includes threatening tariffs which would do immense damage to significant sectors of the Irish economy.
However, it does put it up a little to both the Government and the EU to answer in kind by committing that we will not, under any circumstances, impose controls, checks or a border infrastructure between the North and the South in the event of a no-deal scenario. That is something which the Government and the EU have still resisted doing. Today, at the Committee on Budgetary Oversight, I asked Carlos Martinez Mongay, director, Directorate‑General for Economic and Financial Affairs, whether the EU would put pressure on the Irish Government to protect the integrity of the Single Market by insisting on a border infrastructure in the event of a no-deal Brexit. We did not get any answers. Similarly, on protecting particular sectors, I asked him how flexible would the EU be on state aid rules and how much of a support package would be made available. It is not just about the rainy day fund or how much the Irish Government sets aside to protect workers and particular sectors of Irish society. In the event of a no-deal Brexit, I asked him what the EU would do to protect people in this country from the economic consequences that may ensue. Again, he refused to answer that question.
We cannot dodge those questions anymore. Given that there are certain matters out of our control, there are also certain matters within our control. The Government needs to say to the UK, which cannot be trusted and does not give a damn about the consequences of all this for this country, that we will not be imposing a hard border under any circumstances. Similarly, we need to tell the European Union that we will not tolerate any pressure from it to impose a border infrastructure in the event of a no-deal Brexit. We should also ask the EU to see the colour of its money in terms of real support if we take a significant hit.