independent

Monday 23 September 2019

Boris’s Prorogue Mo Thóin to the EU on anniversary of World War II

Opinion

David Looby

Sunday marked 80 years since the beginning of World War II.

As the horror of the war - which claimed the lives of around 80 million people (around 3 per cent of the world's population) - was being recounted in newspaper articles like this one - an altogether different war machine was getting in gear in London, following prime minister Boris Johnson's decision to prorogue parliament at Westminster.

While walking past a book shop on Saturday the image of trenches jumped out at my daughter from the window. 'What are they?' she enquired, wide eyed and ever curious.

I started to explain but found myself falling short in my descriptive powers for the war, in all its horror, was too much for me to take in even at a safe remove of decades - nevermind a seven-year-old child.

On Sunday German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier recalled World War II as a German crime that his nation will never forget, in Warsaw, a city itself destroyed by the Nazi war machine. Having watched numerous documentaries about the war and read about it over the years, it is one of the touchstones from which democracy and a new hopeful Europe sprang at a time when the fate of the world hung in the balance.

The sacrifices of millions of soldiers, many in their teens, saw fields, trenches and rivers soaked in blood. Civilian casualties ran to around 55 million. The war saw large parts of magnificent cities razed to the ground; people forced into cannibalism, people who returned home to loved ones a shell of their former selves and tragically, hundreds of thousands whose remains were never discovered. Families were broken up; separated and sent to concentration camps. The human toll unbearable.

How one leader could spark such a wave of terror and violence in Europe is terrifying. I visited Berlin a few years ago and saw image after image of Nazi soldiers in the Holocaust Museum. The cold, dead eyed expression of those Nazi soldiers still gives me the chills.

At a time when other world leaders are sailing close to the line of racism and white supremacy, in a world fighting tooth and nail for democracy, one wonders where 2019 will end.

Will a hard Brexit come with all the fright and hammy horror of a Halloween sideshow, or will it bring terrifying economic consequences to the people of this island and further afield? Time will tell.

The brinkmanship of Boris Johnson over the backstop and all of the in-fighting within the Tories has already sparked panic within the markets and affected the Irish and English economies. His punt was legitimately backed by editorials in so-called serious publications in the UK at the weekend, namely that he has to claim he is willing to go all the way, otherwise the UK will have to put up with the backstop deal and get no further concessions.

Having (just about) got used to Theresa May's begging bowl, we know have to endure a caffeinated mini-Trump playing chicken with the future of Europe.

He is offering little and asking a lot and so long as the EU leaders and our political leaders, Simon Coveney and Leo Varadkar, in particular, don't flinch, Europe's 27 remaining nations can stand together and not give in an inch, as a former Ally adopts an isolationist approach that will surely backfire.

The lines in the sand have been drawn and the coming weeks will tell a lot. Watch this space.

Wicklow People

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