Wednesday 26 June 2019

Ivan Yates: Project Racism rebounds in Brexit vote - Britain to Remain but EU superstate halted

Ukip leader Nigel Farage launches his EU referendum poster campaign. Photo: Philip Toscano/PA
Ukip leader Nigel Farage launches his EU referendum poster campaign. Photo: Philip Toscano/PA
Ivan Yates

Ivan Yates

Up and down Britain, angry grey men may mutter into their glasses of pale ale about the inequities of Brussels, and there'll be talk of how the EU will fare with Blighty gone. But in the end, economics will triumph over emotion and the 'Remain' side will prevail.

I predict the young will come out in force. They recognise the need to be part of a transnational world. Putting the 'Great' back in 'Great Britain' is of less immediate importance than procuring a viable future.

Ukip's Nigel Farage simply went too far with his poster stoking immigration fears. Project Fear may have rebounded on Cameron, but Project Racism, as it will have been perceived by some, will rebound on Mr Farage. People may well be concerned with the issue of immigration but they draw the line at racism and will not be associated with it.

Earlier this month, I wrote that we could look back on the whole constitutional escapade that is the Brexit debate as possibly one of the great false alarms for the Irish establishment. I still believe this.

The questions about should they stay or should they go, and where will it leave us have stalked us ever since the possibility of the two islands moving in polar-opposite directions first arose.

We dispatched our Taoiseach and some of his colleagues to what was once referred to mischievously as 'the mainland' to attempt to sway the 400,000 ex-pat Irish voters in Britain to vote 'Remain'. There are 288,000 British residents living here, too.

'Too close to call', 'on a knife-edge': these are the stock phrases employed as the media hedges its bets.

Other soothsayers look towards the political consequences, but once again, who can be certain about the true consequences of a Brexit for our 500km land border with the North? There are threats of back-door immigration into the UK, which could result in further frontier boundary posts. Others have raised the prospect of new duties and tariffs, but who can say for sure?

Let's not be under any illusions - it is in our best interests for the 'Remain' side to prevail.

Having both countries in the EU ring fences the current 400,000 jobs that depend on UK-Ireland trade. It also shores up our weekly trade of €1.2bn. We enjoy a common labour market for our emigrants and the range of benefits from a common travel area within the British Isles. Were Sterling to take a nosedive in the event of a Brexit as many predict, we would be left with a bloody nose as Irish competitiveness took a direct hit.

Were Britain to walk, who would stand in the way of the Brussels juggernaut as it hurtles towards more and more integration at the expense of individual sovereignty?

But let me say again - I believe Britain will still be in the EU tomorrow, but I also believe the EU will be a different place. For one thing, I think the mission creep by the mandarins in Brussels towards a federal superstate has been halted.

Another consequence of the debate has been the reawakening of the appetite for sovereignty. Interference and the hegemony of unelected bureaucrats taking on increasingly intrusive roles in the running of member states will no longer be accepted as a given.

I believe the notion of the single superstate has been killed off.

The UK's most pivotal role inside the EU tent is to be the prime Euro-sceptic player. And we have benefited from this. A federalist Europe would not serve us well.

A common tax straitjacket tied to centralised rule from Brussels, coupled with a shrinking of national parliaments, would be anathema to many.

Europhiles must wonder how we could have ever come to such a pass. They presumed Labour would be part of Britain's government, with an SNP coalition option. Few felt that David Cameron's pledge in January 2013 to hold an In/Out vote would ever materialise; Ukip failed to make a Westminster breakthrough (with only one MP). Well, Mr Cameron's promise has come home to roost.

The irony is that it was only ever made to placate the red-toothed, snarling backbenchers.

Whatever way the vote goes, the fallout from a bitter, massively divisive campaign still has the capacity to tear the Conservative Party apart.

It has opened massive fault-lines within the Tory party and it will almost certainly result in premature elections.

Three key ministers - Theresa Villiers (Northern Ireland), Chris Grayling (Commons Leader) and Iain Duncan Smith (Work and Pensions) - all campaigned vehemently for Brexit. All would most probably have walked had collective Cabinet responsibility not been waived.

And the race to be the major domo in a post-Cameron era has also begun in earnest.

In the field are George Osborne and Boris Johnson on opposing sides. Philip Hammond and Michael Gove have Euro-sceptic DNA. Prominent backbenchers like Liam Fox are leading the charge for independence.

I do not believe in placing each-way bets in a two-horse race, so rightly or wrongly I predict the 'Remain' side will win the day.

After all the sound and the fury, it is, as it should be, in the hands of the voters.

But be under no illusions, the Brexit debate has let the democratic genie out of the bottle and member states will no longer roll over every time some one deigns to dash off an email from Frankfurt.

Irish Independent

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