Tuesday 19 March 2019

Editorial: 'A trade war over brexit will have no winners'

'Admitting to
'Admitting to "Brexit fatigue" last night, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said he was no longer optimistic that a deal could be done.' Photo: Getty Images


The Dublin ballad collector Frank Harte wrote: "Those in power write the history, while those who suffer write the songs."

The final verses of the 'Brexit Lament' have yet to be written, but its discordant notes already grate.

George Orwell believed the most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history. Brexit seems to have done precisely this.

The decades of peace in Europe which Britain made such sacrifices to secure are taken for granted. The economic war between our islands has also been forgotten along with its hardship.

We should remind ourselves that when Fianna Fáil swept to power in 1932, Éamon de Valera rolled up his sleeves and cut the "land annuities" and ended the Oath to the King, for good measure, in 1933.

Before long, Britain reacted; the cutting of the money was something they could not countenance - whatever about taking the snub to the king on the chin.

So a 20pc tariff was slapped on trade with the Free State. This effectively meant Irish beef was no longer on the menu in Britain or the North.

Not one to turn the other cheek, Dev hit back with a tariff in the opposite direction. This effectively was the flea biting the elephant, but when the elephant decided to bite back there was real penury and the economy shrivelled up.

We found ourselves bereft of coal and steel as the Empire struck back.

Today, things are more evenly matched given that we have 26 of our EU partners standing alongside us.

Yet we could be facing tariffs of between 40-50pc. The UK is the biggest market for Irish food exports, accounting for €4.5bn.

The threat of flooding the market with cheap Brazilian beef would be a disaster for our farmers. The dairy industry also fears for the worst.

A destructive free-for-all, targeting imports and exports, will cost jobs and wipe out livelihoods.

It will plunge us back into the pit of recession we have spent the last decade trying to escape.

This country was crippled by de Valera's "burn everything British except their coal" lunacy.

Finally, after five years, in 1938 the two countries signed an agreement to end the trade war. But the damage was incalculable.

Today's peace and prosperity is rooted in the solidarity of a union which is now being dismissed by blind Brexiteers who have no compunction in visiting chaos on a bloc in which the UK once thrived.

Admitting to "Brexit fatigue" last night, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said he was no longer optimistic that a deal could be done.

Mr Juncker said the UK withdrawal from the EU without a deal would have "terrible economic and social consequences".

And so indeed it would. If in the Bible confrontations between giants and minnows end fortuitously for the latter, in the unholy theatre of trade wars outcomes are far less providential.

Irish Independent

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