How should nationalists and republicans act, what sort of thing should they say and not say, as the Brexit balls-up heads towards its end point?
Clearly they should express their thoughts and/or ideas about the economic implications of acting one way or another. Like everyone else (DUP excluded), they are anxious that an internal punch-up within the Tory party does not lead to the impoverishment of all of the people on these islands.
At the same time, nationalists and republicans by definition believe in the re-unification of Ireland. So should they keep lip-zipped about how Brexit might or might not affect the prospect of re-unificatin?
Clearly the DUP believe they are entitled to unzip the lip. In fact, their attitude towards Brexit is largely framed around the possibility that Brexit could be a line between our TGC and the rest of the UK. And they’re determined to avoid that, regardless of economic consequences. So the main unionist party does not hesitate to draw political conclusions from economic decisions.
When nationalists and republicans attempt to draw their political conclusion from Brexit, there is outcry. “Political opportunists! This should not be a green and orange issue!” is the cry. Oh, really?
It is a fact that any change in the constitutional position of our TGC will come only when there is a clear desire for that change. But that has everything to do with economic change, and one thing we know is (assuming Brexit isn’t thrown into reverse and they call the whole thing off in a second referendum) that politics follows economics. So any politician who doesn’t look at the economics of Brexit and reflect on the political implications shouldn’t be a politician.
Certainly the Sinn Féin president, Mary Lou McDonald, has no doubt about the need to speak out: “If the British system thinks that they’re going to inflict that level of jeopardy, damage, hardship and peril on our island and walk away, and expect all of us just to take it on the chin, I’m afraid they’re deeply misguided.”
Mary Lou has also pressed for a border poll (funny how economics and politics come totally integrated in the border), which in some quarters is seen as the political equivalent of breaking wind in public. Leo Varadkar has called on Sinn Féin to take their seats in the British House of Commons or else hand them over to someone (hello, Colum) who will go in there and…well…sort of…solve Brexit. Sinn Féin, unsurprisingly, have said No.
Anyone with half a brain can see that the economic outcome of Brexit will have serious political and constitutional implications. If there is a hard Brexit, stand by for a surge in support for Scottish independence, and a lot of people in the south – and maybe north – rediscovering their inner Shinner.