Wednesday 21 August 2019

Editorial: 'Credit due to Varadkar and Coveney for Brexit strategy'

'Had a disciplined, focused course of action not been defined, things could be so much worse.' Photo: PA
'Had a disciplined, focused course of action not been defined, things could be so much worse.' Photo: PA


comedian Robin Williams liked to poke fun at people in power. He explained the word politics as: "Poli", a Latin word meaning "many", and "tics", meaning "bloodsucking creatures".

But even for comics, cynicism can be a one-way street - once you go down it, turning back gets more difficult. In public life, the traffic also tends to go in the same direction when it comes to blame. When things go sideways, taking pot-shots from a distance is easy; when they go right there is little fanfare, even recognition is scarce.

But today is the day when, had things gone badly, we would be picking up the pieces and attempting to triage the casualties from the UK crashing out of the EU. Enormous effort, exhaustive strategising, endless meetings and interminable arguments had to be endured to prevent what would have been an economic and security catastrophe.

So considerable credit and gratitude should go to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Tánaiste Simon Coveney and Minister of State for European Affairs Helen McEntee for steering us thus far through the rapids of Brexit. Experience shows how life, as it really is, is a battle less between good and bad, and more between bad and worse. Had a disciplined, focused course of action not been defined, things could indeed be so much worse. We should also recognise and salute the solidarity of our European partners.

The Government has spent three years making it clear how critical the Border is to any agreement with the UK. Convincing members of the primacy of the Good Friday Agreement and how it, too, would be central to maintaining peace in these islands was of similar importance. That the Government managed to do precisely this is a legacy of which it can be proud.

Much remains to be done before our exposure to Brexit risks can be contained, but the omens are certainly much better. Two weeks ago the stark economic cost of a disorderly no-deal Brexit was laid bare by the ESRI.

Some 80,000 jobs would be at risk, and a deep shock to the Irish economy would have to be absorbed. As European Council President Donald Tusk quite rightly demanded of Britain, "Please don't waste this time".

Should the UK again kick the can down the road, not only will its international prestige be dented but even more companies are likely to decamp. Yesterday, UK finance minister Philip Hammond said it was very likely that the idea of a second Brexit referendum would again be put to parliament. These are questions that the British can thrash out.

Governments tend to be better remembered for what they destroy than what they create. There is an opportunity to re-engineer Brexit as something other than a roadblock.

Irish Independent

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