Brexit oh Brexit.
Some time ago I decided not to comment on the current political situation here in Britain and especially Brexit – actually there is no other political situation apart from crime rates, poverty levels, government indebtedness, NHS funding and so on. You get the picture. Brexit has consumed all of the bandwidth of the political discord at the moment and it does not look like things are going to change in a while.
Just for the record, as this blog will testify, I am a remainer. However, we lost the referendum and so I am now a want to make the best of a bad job remainer. I don’t see what on earth a second referendum is going to do apart from making things much much worse. We decided to take the leap whether it was sensible or not is irrelevant. The only task now is to make it as painless as possible. Perhaps the first step to achieving that goal is to stop listening to the Brexiteer politicians who between themselves don’t seem to have one idea of note. None of them have put forward any substantial plan as to how Brexit will work in the real world. Instead it is WTO rules this or that. The latest nonsense from these former ministers is that we can make the EU give us a lot more concessions in the next five months before the end of March. The arrogant misunderstanding of the EU is frightening. The other 27 countries all have their own political pressures and the thought that they would just say OK to any demand from Britain because we’ve been tougher is just about the best summary of why the Brexiteer politicians should not be listened to.
Let me first of all say I, like most people including many of the loudest Brexiteer politicians, have not read the divorce deal. So what I am about to say is based on what I have read and heard and can be dismissed because of that. However, I think the deal stinks. It doesn’t give Britain any real freedoms and a load of obligations over which we have no real say. Compared to the best deal we have with the EU, the one we currently have which we will end on March the 29th 2019, it is a terrible deal. With all this being said I think it is a great deal for 3,600 very important reasons: The number of dead people killed as a result of the Troubles in Ireland.
During the 1980’s I played a very very very minor role in trying to contain the Troubles and that experience meant that I have a keen antipathy to anything that might reignite the flames of violence in Northern Ireland. No one has been able to provide reassurance that a no deal situation will not make things there worse. On Friday night I was listening to the World Tonight on BBC Radio 4. One of the items was about the problems that the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) have when trying to police the border (About 20 minutes in). It is very clear that much of the criminal activities that helped support the paramilitaries in South Armagh during the Troubles are still going on and the only way that this can be tackled is with cooperation between the Police on both sides of the border. However, come the 29th March 2019 the legal basis for this cooperation disappears and then what? No one has the first clue.
The border is not about a ‘light touch’ customs arrangements, as though it is the border between Sweden and Norway. It is the touch paper for all the political and violent resistance on both sides of the sectarian divide in the North and quite a bit of the South as well. It doesn’t matter that neither side wants to put up customs posts they will eventually unless something can be sorted out and these will then have to be protected which will eventually require the army being brought in and then… We all think that the threat from Islamic terrorism is serious, which it is. But only the home grown terrorism of Northern Ireland has almost killed 2 British Prime Ministers and destroyed major parts of the largest cities in Great Britain in the last forty years. Saying trading on WTO rules nor claiming that the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland is being used for political reasons is downright disgraceful. Get this wrong and people will die and suddenly the £8 bn a year we’ll be paying over the next 2 years and then the total bill of £40 bn will seem insignificant compared to a full blown restarting of the Troubles.
Now this of course is the worse case scenario and I hope and pray it does come to that. I hope calmer voices will prevail and so solutions can be found so that we don’t have border posts and patrols. If there are any then I don’t think they will be found amongst the Brexiteer politicians at the moment. However, because of the potential for resumption of large scale violence in Ireland I think that the terrible deal is better than a no deal situation. (Of course the best deal is the one we have but…)
I’ll leave you with one final thought. I haven’t got the first clue what I am talking about and having heard and seen much of what has been said about Brexit over the last two years I am in very good company. That is the greatest shame of all.
So there we have it and I hope not to write another word about such matters again. I don’t think that that will happen either. Lets see.