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RAY KINSELLA: My verdict on the Brexit Deal

The EU blinked. There’s no point in attempting to put a gloss on it. You know the kind of thing: “This is not a time for triumphalism…” On the contrary, yes, it is. Europe should celebrate the Free Trade Agreement negotiated by Boris Johnson because it is a vindication of what democracy is about, and which, apart from Eastern Europe who know totalitarianism when they see it, has almost been asphyxiated across the EU.

The Irish establishment had worked hard to push back against the UK’s decision to Brexit. All they sought to undo has now come to nought. It’s ironic. A generation of Irish politicians ceded to a EU superstate something once precious to Ireland, its sovereignty. The UK, against whom we once contended for our freedom, is now, again, a sovereign country. Its Parliament is, once again, accountable to the people and not to Brussels and it is responsible to the people for upholding the national interest. Our ‘woke’ establishment here in Ireland may be just a little embarrassed, and in quieter moments, away from the media, a little resentful. It wasn’t supposed to end with UK facing down four years of unrelenting efforts by the EU, aided by Ireland, to defeat Brexit. We are in for some serious ‘explaining away’ and revisionism.

The EU had rolled over the electorates of Greece and Ireland. Go back and read the papers of that time, and reflect on the oppressive and anti-democratic methods which the EU have used when it suited their purpose. So, it treated with incredulity the decision of David Cameron to hold a Referendum on Brexit in 2013 – the EU doesn’t do direct Democracy because “the people” are simply not to be trusted with such decisions. It regarded with disdain the decision of UK voters to vote ‘leave’ in 2016. It warned of the dire consequences of such a presumptuous decision. It threatened, and joined forces in the UK and Irish establishments, to threaten the dire consequences for the UK if it persisted with such foolishness. There were calls for a second Referendum.

The EU presumed to lay down oppressive – even abject – terms for a Withdrawal Agreement that would leave the UK dependent and still subject to the EU. It had willing allies in the Conservative Party and in the mainstream media–and here in Ireland. The “deal” done by the hapless Theresa May was an embarrassment. Professor Mervin King, formerly Governor of the Bank of England, put it like this:

“…There are arguments for remaining in the EU and arguments for leaving. But there is no case whatever for giving up the benefits of remaining without obtaining the benefits of leaving. Yet that is exactly what the government is now proposing. It simply beggars belief that a government could be hell-bent on a deal that hands over £39 billion, while giving the EU both the right to impose laws on the U.K. indefinitely and a veto on ending this state of fiefdom”

Boris Johnson broke the fetters which had bound the UK’s efforts to exit. Irrespective of whether one likes him or not, he united the Conservative Party. He fought and won a General Election which pivoted on “getting Brexit done”. He succeeded in renegotiating  Brussels where Theresa May failed. In the final stretch he made it clear that he was prepared to walk away from the EU with a “No Deal” – and even mobilised the Navy to uphold the UK’s sovereignty in the matter of fishing rights to drive the point home, should it prove necessary.

In the event, it wasn’t. The EU, confronted with the reality of a “No Deal”, blinked. Fisheries was not of course a major economic issue except, and importantly, for fishermen and their communities. It is, however, a powerful metaphor which gave physical expression to the deeper concept of Sovereignty. No role for the ECJ, no imposition of an asymmetrical “level playing field” – aka protectionism – and no presumption of external control over its borders, except of course the “Backstop” where Ireland could have chosen to play a constructive role but chose to play for Brussels. There is still, of course, work to be done. But Johnson has delivered what UK voters had demanded, and what the Irish establishment feared.

It is some achievement and it should resonate with Ireland. The multicultural, open-borders technocracy that drives the now aggressively secular and ‘woke’ EU agenda, rejects sovereignty as ‘outdated’. Behind this conceit is the presumption that these oblique, shadowy and non elected forces are better placed to judge what is in the best interests of the people of Ireland, than those elected as “messengers to the Dáil”. It is a lie – but it’s a very, very seductive one: plush carpets and respect – providing you are “on message” and that your politics and political parties are “on message” too.Then you can savour the illusion that your are one of the ‘movers and shakers’, removed from the incessant demands of domestic politics.

The EU seeks to excise from the narrative of contemporary Irish politics the very idea of Independence, or better still, “relational autonomy”. But the reality is that sovereignty nurtures the history and identity of a nation. It is the custodian of a nation’s natural resources, of its faith values, its memories and continuity. Sovereignty  vindicates the aspirations of a nation. Those who scoff would be well advised to re-read what is written on the monument to Charles Stewart Parnell, at the top of O’Connell Street.

The UK – or rather the UK Parliament – has now reclaimed the sovereign authority, taken back to itself final responsibility for the welfare of its people, to whom it is alone accountable. It has wrested control from a EU hegemony, including the ECJ, and an EU Commission that has lost its sensitivity to ‘the people’ and, instead, serves the bureaucratic needs of that same hegemony.

The EU, and the for now, Irish elite seek to convince us that we have a “shared sovereignty”. Really? Those who make such assertions know little about the the nature of democracy and still less about the realpolitik of the EU, which would rather we didn’t concern ourselves about such matters, they might give ‘the people’ subversive thoughts.

With Brexit, the UK, our nearest neighbour and trade partner, is free of what the EU has become. Ireland remains a small, peripheral province that was brought to heel a decade ago; dependent on Multinational companies and on Brussels and far removed from the epicentre of power. We have served our purpose in the EU’s failed struggle to defeat Brexit. We are now hostage to the Agenda of centre, from corporate taxation to euthanasia. The irony is that those who have sold out the Independence entrusted to them are one and the same as those who were once loudest in proclaiming Independence, sovereignty and the Irish Nation. ‘Shared Sovereignty‘? Dream on.

An exaggeration? Let’s go back for a moment to the inflection point in modern Irish history, 28th November 2020. Lisa Hand, then with the Irish Independent, paints a searingly honest picture of the realities of sovereignty and of dependency, and of realpolitik, EU-style. Its a long quotation but absolutely on point.

“Outside on Merrion Square frozen snow glittered on the streets. But it was nothing compared to the icy chill which hung in the air of the press centre in Government Buildings on the desolate night on Sunday, November 28, 2010, as the packed room watched a group of strangers from the IMF, EU and ECB settled into seats just vacated by the Taoiseach and two cabinet ministers.

This Troika was our new government now – unelected, unwanted and absolutely indispensable. Three Kings bearing a bitter gift of €85 Billion for a broken nation tethering on the edge of a precipice. Thirty pieces of silver in exchange for our hard-won, precious sovereignty … Earlier an ashen faced Taoiseach had insisted that he and his team had ‘carefully considered all available policy options’ before signing on the dotted line. But in reality, they had no options. There is no wriggle-room when your back is to the wall.”

Right in the solar plexus.

Ireland, or more precisely our Government, had screwed up. They peddled delusions to the people, who bought into them. It’s only when you are deprived of something precious, something that better men died for, that you truly value what has been squandered in the name of politics– but never patriotism.

So we are now encouraged to believe that sovereignty is ‘outdated’ by the forces that rule over us or can be ‘shared’ with the “big beasts” of the political jungle. The idea is to deaden sensibilities that run deeper than finely crafted speeches and PR. But it doesn’t work like that. The consistently Europhile Irish Times was itself moved to acknowledge the trauma of lost sovereignty that had been visited on Ireland, on that chilly November evening, just ten years ago:

‘We are not naive enough to think that this State ever can, or ever could, take large decisions in isolation from the rest of the world. What we do expect, however, is that these decisions will still be our own. A nation’s independence is defined by the choices it can make for itself. Irish history makes the loss of that sense of choice more shameful. The desire to be a sovereign people runs like a seam through all of the struggles of the last 200 years…it continues to have a genuine resonance for most Irish people today’.

Well, there you are. Well said. “The desire to be a sovereign nation runs like a seam through all of the struggles of the last 200 years”. Except that you won’t hear the political establishment or the mainstream media talking in those terms today unless, of course, it’s at a “Commemoration”, when the ‘party pieces’ are disinterred and rehearsed one more time.

The truth of it is this. The jaded political establishment that bartered our sovereignty, are still in power. Think about it. It’s no surprise that having sold out the sovereignty of the country, they went on to sell out the faith values that once set Ireland apart: reverence for life, for family and for religious freedoms not least in our schools. And for political freedom. We should remember that religious freedom and political freedom are woven from the same cloth. Solzhenitsyn knew that. He told us, from his  experience of totalitarianism, the importance of the Christian patrimony of the West. But we weren’t listening.

Curbs on freedom of speech is next, under the guise of spin and being terribly, terribly ‘compassionate’. Its old hat now, but it still plays well to deadened sensibilities. Brussels will continue to dictate to the tattered remnants of a once sovereign nation what it must do and and what it must believe: what it can say and mustn’t say and the economic policies it must pursue, even as we pay hundreds of millions into the EU’s coffers.

Anything else? Oh yes, we should  break free of the Stockholm Syndrome that now marks our relationship with the EU. We should IrExit  for the same reasons I set out on 30th August 2017 that blew fuses on the Irish Times letters’ pages. We should recover and affirm in the Public Square our own authentic understanding of what “Europe” once stood for. We could do it. The UK, against all the odds, has broken through the hedge that encompasses us.


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