There’s a small black devil that dances at the back of the mind of every Irish person. It is that the EU will do a deal with the UK and toss Ireland north and south overboard. This devil has today danced its way onto the lips of that sternly principled man, Ian Paisley Jr.
The devil in question is the nagging fear that the EU will force Ireland to walk the plank, if Ireland is all that comes between them and a satisfactory Brexit deal. Mr Paisley, a man of blunt speaking as well as high principles, puts it in words:
“If I was the German chancellor or the French president I would be saying to Mr Varadkar, ‘Listen mate, you have had enough fun with the politics of this; it is now time to get on with the real deal’,”
You get the picture? Ireland is an irresponsible child who has had loads of fun capering in the European spotlight, but now must now desist and allow the big boys and girls to take over.
If you can get past the notion of Ian Paisley presenting himself as an ethical advisor on doing the right thing, you’ll recognize that his words refer to that small fiendish worry we’ve all had and still have. It would be unprincipled of the EU to force Ireland overboard, but we know from experience that the EU doesn’t have scruples when it comes to big issues.Remember how it sent in the troika to kick the living shit out of Ireland’s financial arrangements in 2008? So it would make sense if Europe weighed its welfare and prosperity against the sad case of little Ireland and shoved us to sleep with the fishes.
But I don’t think they will. Not because they love us, but because this is a test of the nature of the EU. That organisation was first established to avoid war in Europe and to feed the people of Europe. It has done both these things with spectacular success. Now it is faced with the UK leaving the EU, and what does it see as a screaming necessity? To establish that the EU looks after its members and at the same time that the EU guards its economic frontiers.
If this results in a hard Brexit, and consequently a hard border, the effects will be truly apocalyptic. Not just in terms of jobs and businesses in Ireland, but throughout the UK. I listened to the radio last night where a Belgian businessman explained how he’d always kept his flourishing business within the EU boundaries, because beyond that the paper-work and compliance with complicated terms wasn’t worth the time and money. Now he’s faced with either spending more time and money to maintain his exports to the UK, which will, it seems, soon be outside the EU, or abandoning that lucrative market. He spoke of how the delay for a couple of minutes of lorries heading into the UK would result in 20-mile tail-backs, along with tens of thousands of jobs lost in his part of Belgium. And that’s Belgium. Think how much worse it would be here if Britain crashes out without a deal.
And that’s keeping things at the economic level. I recently spoke to a member of the Border Communities Against Brexit, a peaceful, middle-aged man. He said if roads were sealed off as in the bad old days, he would be out immediately with his tractor helping dismantle the blockages. There would be huge civil unrest, with people seeing their livelihood vanish because the DUP want to present the north as being as British as Finchley, when it knows full well the many arrangements that make this green and trembling corner the kind of place it is, totally different from any other part of the UK.
A singer with a tuneless voice can damage a much-loved song forever. Ian Paisley this morning has a voice that croaks and sings flat with every condescending note. Would you take a singing lesson from such a man?