Wednesday 18 September 2019

Editorial: 'The danger of a Brexit consensus'

'This newspaper is most concerned about the effects of Brexit on Ireland.' Stock photo: PA
'This newspaper is most concerned about the effects of Brexit on Ireland.' Stock photo: PA


There are many dangers for Ireland associated with Brexit which have been well illuminated over the past three years, and will be again in the three months to the deadline withdrawal date of the United Kingdom from the European Union. These dangers have been highlighted by expert authorities, not least by the Central Bank of Ireland again last week.

The dangers, of course, are not confined to the Republic of Ireland, but also to Northern Ireland and the wider UK, as well as to Europe itself. One of the lesser discussed dangers, however, has been the danger of consensus, or group-think, which is being doubled down upon the closer we come to October 31.

This newspaper is most concerned about the effects of Brexit on Ireland. In short, our wish is that Brexit would not occur at all, but if it must - and it is by now virtually certain that it will - that the UK's withdrawal from the EU would be well managed so as to avoid the maximum damage that will be done to the economic and consequently societal well-being of this country. That is why, we believe, it is important to question all aspects of policy from each sides on the Brexit process, including the policy being followed by Ireland.

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Two of this newspaper's columnists, Dan O'Brien and Eoghan Harris, have been to the forefront, and consistent, in their questioning of that policy. In their own rights, they have been experienced and authoritative commentators over many years, indeed decades in this country. They have questioned the Government's insistence on the ''backstop'' as an assurance, which may never be required, to avoid the return of a border to the island of Ireland. To be clear, neither does this newspaper want to see the return of a border. However, when official policy is driving the country towards an outcome which will, inevitably, see the return of a border anyway, should there be a no-deal crash-out Brexit on October 31, then it is right and proper that at least that policy be questioned.

In this country we have had cause, most recently since the economic crash a decade ago, to question the tyranny of consensus. The donning of a ''green jersey'' can be an admirable patriotic fashion, but it can also unleash other forces most unwelcome, not least the nationalist rhetoric which has given rise to a degree of Anglophobia in this country in recent times.

There were many, and remain some good reasons for this country to adhere to a policy of insisting on the ''backstop'' in the Brexit negotiations between the UK and the EU. But there will always be essential cause to analyse, probe and question the wisdom of official policy, and no apology will be made for that.

In the meantime, it is to be hoped that the EU, Ireland and the UK refrain from further escalating developing tensions and eventually arrive at a successful outcome. When, or should they arrive at a negotiated settlement acceptable to all, that conclusion will be also equally examined, criticised or praised without fear or favour.

Sunday Independent

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