I’ve just finished taking part in a discussion with Edwina Currie on the Nolan radio show, where we were talking about Martina Anderson’s recent speech in the European Parliament. As you probably know by now, the speech drew attention, not primarily because Martina was talking about the impact of Brexit on the border here, but because she ended by telling Theresa May to stick her border “where the sun don’t shine”.
Sammy Wilson has said that Martina sounded like “a shrewish fish-wife”. I’m not sure how many fish-wives Sammy has listened to, but I know lots of men and women who express themselves with a great deal more vulgarity than Martina used. It was less coarse, I suggested, than Edwina Currie’s former close colleague John Major, who famously referred to “the bastards” in his Cabinet. (Sudden thought: odd that an avalanche of criticism fell on Gerry Adams when he used the same word, while John Major’s use of it elicited a chuckle rather than criticism.) Those who are covering the ears of their children and calling for smelling salts at Martina’s words have led remarkably sheltered lives.
The good thing – maybe the calculated thing – that Martina’s words have done is draw attention to the coming dangers and economic damage which the post-Brexit border will do. On the Nolan show, Edwina assured us they’ll “come up with something” and it won’t be a problem. Try telling that to people whose life and business straddle the border, who cross it up to half-a-dozen times a day. Tell it to the farmer who milks his cows on one side and has the milk processed on the other. Tell that to the drivers of heavy goods vehicles, who’ll need more than a frictionless number-plate recognition to make sure there aren’t immigrants in the back.
Those of us who remember the border, even before the Troubles, know that it was a serious impediment to movement of goods and people. And we know that while Edwina and Theresa can keep reassuring us that a post-Brexit border will be virtually invisible, they won’t have to live with it on a daily basis. A post-Brexit border, in the absence of very special arrangements agreed to by the EU and Britain, will wreak havoc with hundreds if not thousands of livelihoods. But then, the fate of Irish people isn’t something that Theresa or Edwina in the last analysis give a monkey’s about.
I hope that last phrase didn’t offend too many people.