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|From: Irish Political Review: Editorials|
|Date: October, 2020|
Britain And Europe: Some Painful Realities
|Britain And Europe: Some Painful Realities
Irish membership of the European Union along with Britain, as the second English voice in the Union, was the easy way of Anglicising nationalist Ireland. The British decision to leave the EU has therefore caused existential problems for the Irish Anglicisers. Only Professor Anthony Coughlan of Trinity College and the quaintly-named Irish Sovereignty Movement has proposed the obvious solution to the problem—that Ireland should exit the EU as it entered it, along with Britain. Others try to deal with the problem by abusing Britain.
Bobby McDonagh, former Ambassador to Britain, compares it to a small child throwing a tantrum and being in need of chastisement by the adults, but "the adults are no longer in charge in Downing St." (The Adults Are No Longer In Charge In Downing St., Irish Times, 8.9.20).
He then recalls (from where he does not say), "six flaws in their misunderstanding [sic] of national sovereignty", "in their false narrative of national sovereignty".
"sovereignty was something to be hoarded in an attic like a long-forgotten Farage family heirloom, or a dusty and delicate treasure to be buried under the Dominic Cummings seat in a Downing St. garden". It was not "the sovereignty most countries value in modern times, something to be used creatively… in our necessarily interdependent world".
But doesn't this somehow seem more applicable to the erstwhile Irish sovereignty over the Six Counties asserted in the state Constitution, from which successive Governments carefully averted their minds throughout the Northern War?
The British "wore the flag of sovereignty without understanding that the EU Member States are equally sovereign, both individually and, were they have pooled sovereignty, collectively".
But "pooled sovereignty", which means sovereignty by the EU as a body over its component states, was never clearly instituted or clearly defined. Earlier this year the EU asserted against Poland a 'law' about the appointment of judges which does not apply in the older EU states. It does not apply in Ireland. But the Irish State was to the fore in asserting it against Poland.
The matter became an issue in the Polish Elections, in which the EU attempted to bring about the defeat of the Government. When it lost the Polish election, it decided not to press the matter further for the time being.
The Third Flaw is about fish not recognising borders in the sea.
The Fourth is about the British deciding to apply EU rules where it suits them.
The Sixth is that, while some great things were done in the name of British Sovereignty, "some bad stuff" was also done, and that it all has "a very distinctive English ring to it"—which just seems to be an irrelevant observation.
The Fifth Flaw is that "there is no point in talking up sovereignty if one is, at the same time, intent on undermining it".
But this is just an absurd observation, thinkable only in the more fanciful flights of diplomatic make-believe, in the ideology of an Irish state which ceased to assert itself nationally two generations ago. Sovereignties are asserted against each other. And in the most modern times they have been destructive of one another.
What the modern world is, is what Britain and the United States have made it. The construction of the EU was largely due to the European policy of the USA after 1945, when it was taking over from Britain the half of the world which had not come into the Russian sphere as a result of Britain turning its second war on Germany into a World War, when it could no longer sustain it with its own resources.
When the EU began to imagine itself as a World Power about thirty years ago, and threw its weight around, it acted destructively. It did this first against Yugoslavia and was instrumental in bringing about the Balkan carnage. Then a few years ago it incited rebellion against the elected Government of Ukraine which made trade deals with both Russia and the EU, instead of aligning itself with the EU against Russia.
The Ambassador's Fifth Flaw continues—
"Few acts of sovereignty are as solemn as signing and ratifying an international treaty. A Treaty engages the state by proclaiming to the world that “this is our word and we will stand by it”. If the UK were… to default unilaterally on parts of the Withdrawal Agreement, it would not only be disrespecting the EU and international law but also insulting its own sovereignty."
Could there be a more childish conception of world affairs than this?
It used to be said that Treaties were made to be broken. It is no longer said so bluntly in these times of political correctness, but it remains the truth of it. A Treaty is an agreement between two states which holds good as long as it is in the interest of both states.
The Attorney General, Paul Gallagher, in the current issue of the Jesuit magazine Studies, quotes the philosopher Spinoza in support of an argument about the EU, but Spinoza's opinion on Treaties was bluntly stated:
"This “contract” remains so long unmoved as the motive for entering into it, that is, fear of hurt or hope of gain, subsists. But take away from either commonwealth this hope or fear, and it is left independent, and the link, whereby the commonwealths were mutually bound, breaks of itself. And therefore every commonwealth has the right to break its contract, whenever it chooses, and cannot be said to act treacherously or perfidiously in breaking its word, as soon as the motive of hope or fear is removed" (A Political Treatise, 1670, Chapter 3).
It is astonishing that an Irish public figure should think that England can be successfully moralised against on the subject of Treaties and International Law. The modern era in Ireland—the post-Gaelic era—began with the Treaty of Limerick. And we all know—or we all used to know—how that Treaty was observed by Britain.
In 1914 tens of thousands of Irishmen were recruited for the British Army by means of propaganda about how Germany broke a sacred Treaty relating to Belgium. Two years later Britain invaded Greece and set up a puppet government there which joined Britain in the war on Turkey.
The United States was constructed by making and breaking a long succession of Treaties with the native peoples of America. And last year it broke a Treaty with Iran, whose terms it had never observed anyway, and forced others to follow suit.
States which are members of the United Nations are supposedly sovereign in their internal affairs, and are supposedly protected in their sovereignty by their membership of the UN. But it has now become common practice—led by the leading democracy—for some members to de-legitimise the Government, or even the regime, of another member, without putting the matter to the UN.
The US has de-legitimised the elected President of Venezuela and recognised as President somebody living outside the state, and has imposed sanctions against the state in an attempt to get their choice of President installed. Britain has seconded that action by refusing to release the Venezuelan reserve of £800 millions in gold, which was (foolishly) lodged in London for safe keeping. That money is needed to feed the people, suffering under arbitrary US sanctions which do not have the support of the United Nations. The EU also recognises the US nominee as the legitimate President of Venezuela.
The US and Britain de-legitimised the Assad Government of Syria and declared some obscure terrorist group to be the legitimate Government. That obscure group disappeared, brushed aside by the fundamentalist Islamist bodies which were the substance of the opposition to Assad's liberal regime. The US and its followers then declared a War on Terror against the effective opposition to Assad, but did so without re-legtimising the Assad Government.
International Law plays no part whatever in these conflicts, and in many others of a similar kind. It has no existence as an actual international system. The five strongest states in the world are officially exempt from it under UN rules, and each of them can confer that exemption on their client states. It is little more than a matter of individual opinion—a debating point.
The British Government chose to say that, in a certain eventuality, it would break international law on the Irish Protocol of its withdrawal agreement from the EU. It was not at all necessary for it to put it that way. It has long experience in arguing that it is the other parties that break agreements. It must have seen some advantage in putting it provocatively.
What it has said in effect is that it will not allow the national market of the UK to be obstructed by continuing EU authority after it has left the EU.
The EU seems to have decided to punish the UK for leaving, by enforcing on it an element of the Irish sovereignty claim over the North which the Irish state repealed twenty years ago. It seems to be intent on establishing the EU-Irish Customs Border in the Irish Sea. It may also see this as being necessary to minimising the effect of Brexit within the EU, and be killing two birds with one stone.
A recent issue of The European (Sept. 3) contains an interview with Michel Barnier by Marion van Renterghem, during which he describes a discussion he had with Nigel Farage shortly after the Referendum.
"I asked him: 'Mr. Farage, now that you won the referendum on Brexit, how do you see the future relations between the U.K. and the E.U.? Farage answered in a smile: 'But, Mr. Barnier, when Brexit happens, the E.U. will no longer exist!'
"At this point in our interview, Barnier turned to the audience. On his face, normally so calm, was passion. 'Ladies and gentlemen', he declared solemnly, 'we need to stay together to defend our interests in the world, without shame. Neither the Chinese, nor the Russians, nor the Americans have shame when they defend theirs… They want to blow us up from the inside. I tell you, as long as I have strength, we'll stand in their way. We won't yield an inch to those people. Never'…"
If this is true, it means that he had been living in a world of Anglophile illusion. That is entirely believable. The EU is a world of practical arrangements made within a medium of ideological illusion, and the illusory side has been steadily encroaching on the practical side in recent decades.
Barnier, by his account, has only just come to see what De Gaulle and the founders saw from the start. He had somehow failed to see what Britain was doing the whole time it was a member of the EU.
John Bruton, when he was a Commissioner, saw it at close quarters, and understood it. But, when Brexit came on the agenda, he recoiled from his understanding, because his world was founded on Anglophile illusions.
If Barnier has his way and the EU Customs border is on the Irish Sea, that will be a watershed moment in British/European relations, reversing the trend of half a millennium, and nationalist Ireland might even become national again.
But we are not predicting that this will happen. Barnier is described by the interviewer as having been for all his political life, until very recently, as an Anglophile Gaullist—which is a contradiction in terms. He helped to make English the language of the EU. A flash of Anglophobe enlightenment late in the day on the European side, provoked by a piece of provocative arrogance, is met on the other side by the steady, providential will to dominance that has carried England through many wild and reckless gambles in its relations with Europe over many centuries.