Thursday, 5 January 2017

No Irexit! Or, how Cameron could have won the Brexit vote?

Or do I mean, no Ireleave?

This chap has an interesting take on what Ireland's attitude to the Brexit negotiations should be. He makes the good point that Ireland's interest in the matter is not the same as the rest of the EU's, and it should not just rely on a common approach. He makes two other interesting points.

First, an observation on how federalism works.

"I worry about the man who is negotiating for us: Monsieur Barnier. He has form. For example, in 2006, when he was an EU Commissioner, he wrote a report for the EU parliament that advocated scrapping countries’ consulates in other countries.

Under his federalist vision, the Irish consulate in Spain would be scrapped – so that if an Irish lad got a battering from the Guardia Civil, for example, there would be no Irish consulate to listen to his case and help him out. He also advocated in this report to close down all (Irish and other) consulates in non-EU countries and replace these with one EU consulate.

This is deep federalism, so much so that I noticed reading these reports that the word “country” is never mentioned. Countries are never referred to as countries, but as “member states”. It appears that even the mention of the word country by the EU Commission undermines the long-term federalist project.

Second, he has an idea for a strategy for EU membership for Ireland.

"This column has argued for some time now that we stay in the EU, but draw the line at the present EU. We shouldn’t embrace any further integrationist stuff nor sign up to any further federalist projects. This means doing precisely the opposite of the Brits. Rather than following the British out of the EU, we should vow never to leave it. The EU can’t kick us out. There is no mechanism. We should simply opt out of Mr Barnier’s plans. This means we have full access to the EU, but we don’t need nor want to go any further – not because of some cultural aversion, but because it’s not in our interest."

This, I think, is consistent with David Cameron's views (remember the opt-out on 'ever closer union'?) but a more bolshily-attractive way of putting that case. Instead of going to Brussels and crawling back with a pathetic re-negotiation, he could have said something like this: this is how our relationship with the EU is going to be from now on - no, no, no! to further integration of any kind; it stops now and it stops here; and if those Brussels bureaucrats don't like that then tough - what can they do? kick us out? It would have looked much stronger - avoiding the optics of having to beg Angela Merkel for scraps from her table - and it would have undermined the 'Take Back Control' message by being an overt act of being in control. The renegotiation conceded that the EU had the power; but simply making a declaration (no matter how empty it is in formal terms) would have done the opposite.

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