Wednesday 18 September 2019

It's 'Ireland First' time – everything is fair game

British Prime Minister Theresa May and Taoiseach Enda Kenny Picture: PA
British Prime Minister Theresa May and Taoiseach Enda Kenny Picture: PA
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Nationalism is a dirty word in 2017 but it's time for a bit of 'Ireland First'. The truth is that nobody knows how we're fixed heading into the Brexit because, while the Government insists it's ready, much of the preparation is behind closed doors.

A decision was taken not to appear "predatory" in our attempts to lure businesses out of London and ministers have embarked on a diplomatic offensive that seeks to offend nobody.

We are on 'Team EU' but simultaneously want to keep in with the British government. Brexit Minister Enda Kenny is effectively trying to be a double agent.

There is some logic in this approach but when the hard negotiations come, where will that leave us? Will the Taoiseach find himself arguing that the UK shouldn't be punished for creating this upheaval or will he argue that the EU should banish them down a dark hole as a warning to France and other countries that might be considering an exit?

It might seem like a risky strategy but the time is fast approaching when the Government needs to plough its own furrow. Yes, we need friends but we also need to worry more about ourselves and less about what the outside world thinks of us.

Ireland's journey in the European Union has been mostly positive and loyalty is valuable. Our history with the UK has been mostly negative.

However, in recent years we've managed to get over their bullying and regularly seek their protection.

Now is a time in history when we must stand on our own two feet. The Taoiseach must be prepared to tell Theresa May that if she pushes ahead with a hard Brexit then Ireland will seek to poach jobs away from London. We have to mitigate the damage to our economy from a scenario created by her government.

I'm not talking about adopting the "crude sort of nationalism" that Barack Obama warned against last year. It is possible to be nationalist on one hand and pro-European on another.

This isn't about tribalism or an 'us' and 'them' based in race or religion.

The Spanish government already appears to be taking this approach.

In order to avoid fuelling the push for independence in Catalonia, it seems the Spaniards would block any special Brexit deal for Scotland.

On Monday, Theresa May comes to Dublin. Having snubbed an invitation to address the Dáil, her only political interaction will be with our Taoiseach and Minister for Brexit.

Mr Kenny needs to make it clear that while we're all good friends, everything is fair game in Brexit.

Irish Independent

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