Brendan Howlin v Stephen Collins: Gloomyguts vs Pollyanna?

Put two economists in a room, they say, and they’ll come out with three different points of view. Do the same on Brexit and you’ll  get a fudge. Why wouldn’t you? Journalists and pundits are no less dumb than the rest of us, and besides, they don’t like nailing their colours to the mast in case they’ll end on the wrong side and look dumber. Which most of them are. 

Take Brexit. ( Yes I know: you wish I would take it from public view and conceal it in the nearest available orifice. But Brexit is BIG. Brexit will shape our society and our lives for decades to come. Brexit demands that it be taken seriously.)

This morning I read two articles on Brexit and the possibility of Brexit mean a hard Brexit.  The first was in the Business Brexit section of the Indo. Brendan Howlin ( you remember him – most recent leader of the South’s Labour Party) uses the space to tell us that Britain is drifting towards an inevitable hard Brexit.: ““Here we are on the eve of an important June summit… and we’ve no landing zone. We have further confusion about what the British government want to achieve…We are now in danger of having a Hard Brexit and the worst of all worlds.”

Is In this morning’s Irish Times, however, Stephen Collins writes a column titled “Prospect of hard Brexit receding”.   In it he sound cautiously optimistic:

“Thanks to Theresa May’s deal with the sensible wing of the Conservative Party, the prospect of a no-deal Brexit now seems remote at best.”

A ‘senior Brussels figure’ has told Stephen “This is all going to go down to the wire in October, and the Irish issue will inevitably be a pawn in the end game as the final shape of future relationship between the EU and the UK is sorted out.”

Mercifully, Stephen’s senior Brussels figure didn’t walk off at this point and into a nearby pub. He stayed on to tell Stephen that Ireland didn’t have a lot to fear from this scenario “as support for this country [sic] is solid across the EU while there is little sympathy for the British position.”

So is Brendan right and Stephen wrong, or vice versa? Brendan is at the disadvantage that he’s relying on the content of his own small brain, whereas Stephen has his larger brain supplemented by the knowledge and judgement of his anonymous senior Brussels source.

Providng, of course, Stephen really does have a senior Brussels source, and that source isn’t to be found most days legless  in the A La Mort Subite [Sudden Death] pub on the rue Montagne aux Herbes Potageres, then I’d put my money on him.

The main reason for trusting his judgement rather than Brendan’s is that he emphasizes how the EU26 have been in the south of Ireland’s corner from the start. Why they have done so has been something of a pleasant surprise to most of us, considering the financial hammering they gave the southern government back at the time of the financial meltdown. But solid they’ve been, meeting every British attempt to slither way from its back-stop commitments with a firm “Non!”

The key unknown is whether the EU26 will stay with the south of Ireland to the bitter end. If October comes and this puny little island off the coast of mainland Europe is the only blemish on an otherwise pristine EU-UK deal, there’s a terrible danger that the EU will join Boris Johnson in regarding Ireland as the tail that is wagging the dog, and may be tempted to unceremoniously clip that tail.






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