Britannia’s moving out – but she wants a house next door to her mother

Posted By: July 30, 2016

Patrick Murphy. Irish News (Belfast). Saturday, July 30, 2016

Although Britannia is planning to move out of her European economic home, developments in the pre-Brexit negotiations suggest that she would like a house next door to her mother.

Brexit now appears to mean British membership of the European Economic Area or, possibly, an even closer form of semi-detached relationship with the EU. Welcome to Europe, but not as we have known it.

We can only guess at the nature and content of a UK-EU agreement, but the signs are that the UK-Ireland free travel area will remain, possibly with restricted migration into the south from Europe. The aim of balancing tariff-free trade with greater control over labour migration may remove the need for border customs posts.

We might be leaving the EU, but it appears that we are not going very far. However, it is still too far for the local Remain campaign which is threatening legal action against the poll’s implementation in the north and revelling in wishful thinking about a united Ireland.

But few have identified the other side of the Remain case: what does staying in the EU mean? The EU’s aim is ever-closer union and, ultimately, a United States of Europe. [Do you remember when it was a case of a united Ireland or nothing? Well, for Remain supporters, it appears to be a case of a United States of Europe or nothing.]

So we can now see the outlines of a proper debate. We face a choice between a likely close association with the EU or joining a United States of Europe (USE), which would be largely controlled by France and Germany. Surprisingly, the broad thrust of Irish nationalism is to join the USE. Perhaps the Irish reputation of fighting for national freedom has been exaggerated.

So what sort of USE would we join? We would be in the same single state as, for example, Hungary and Poland. Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orban, a supporter of Donald Trump, has built a 175 km long razor wire fence [a bit like Trump’s proposed Mexican wall] to keep out migrants and refugees. Human Rights Watch recently reported that Hungarian soldiers beat “with fists, kicks and batons” 40 refugees, including women and children, whose hands were tied behind their backs.

If Sinn Féin and the SDLP will not be “dragged away” from political union with this government, shouldn’t they explain why?

In Poland the ruling PiS party now chooses judges for the highest court. It has asserted its control over public broadcasting and increased its powers of surveillance, including the right to shut down the internet. Interior Minister, Blaszczak, has claimed that the Nice massacre of 84 people was an inevitable consequence of multiculturalism and two former Polish presidents recently led 50,000 protesters in a march against what many see as a return to communist-style government.

So which would you prefer: close economic ties with the EU or submergence in a single state with Hungary and Poland [and growing right-wing movements in France, Germany, Austria, Denmark, Italy, Greece and Sweden]? That is the debate which we have yet to hold.

This forthcoming single European state is trying to impose three largely secret agreements which will allow global corporations access to our NHS, food and environmental safety regulations, banking regulations and privacy data. They are the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and two other agreements, one with Canada, the other with 22 countries. Why do Remain campaigners not want to be “dragged away” from these agreements?

Instead, they claim that we are returning to the Dark Ages, at the behest of “Tory right wing loonies”. [Would they be the same right wing loonies to whom Sinn Féin returned some powers over welfare payments?]

Many in the Remain camp argue that since the Leave campaign lied, we should have a second referendum. Good point, but on that basis we would be required to re-run every Assembly election since1998.

Rather than recognise what EU membership actually means, nationalists are engaged in arguing whether we should have a hard or soft border. [The long war to remove the border has been replaced by an argument over what sort of border it should be.]

While SF claims to speak for unionism [an interesting and belated departure from the Good Friday Agreement] can we seriously expect one million unionists to accept a united Ireland and the break-up of the United Kingdom?

Don’t forget that armed loyalism has not gone away, you know.

So we now have an opportunity for a real debate, which balances Brexit against a United States of Europe. Who among nationalism is willing to engage in that debate?