Simon jpg

Irish nerves frayed amid little reassurance from Washington

Tánaiste Simon Coveney. photo


By Ray O’Hanlon

If Irish nerves were frayed before the visit earlier this week of Vice President Mike Pence they must be close to shredded at week’s end by a combination of uncertainty over relations with the United States, relations with the United Kingdom, and even relations with the European Union post Brexit.

“Tánaiste Simon Coveney has warned Ireland will do everything necessary to ensure the country is not dragged out of the EU single market by a no-deal Brexit.”

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That was in the Irish Independent and doubtless furrowed brows of readers who had little idea that Ireland might actually be forced out of the EU single market as a result of a chaotic no-deal Brexit.

Along with such startling revelations comes reports that products are being stockpiled in warehouses in the republic, this out of fear that supplies of many popular household items imported from the UK - or from Europe through the UK “land bridge” - will run short after Brexit, most particularly the no-deal variety.

Meanwhile, Vice President Pence departed Ireland for London on Wednesday leaving behind a sense among his Irish hosts that was anything but a “we’ve got your back” reassurance from Washington.

The Irish media responded accordingly with scathing criticism of the vice president’s seeming preference for the UK in the context of the Brexit mess.

This from columnist Miriam Lord in the Irish Times: “The hospitable hosts buttered up their important guest and made a big fuss of his family and hoped he would say nice things about them to the important people he would meet after his visit to Ireland.

“And he told them they were wonderful and that he loved them. He even said a special prayer for everyone and then, just before he left, he turned around and kicked them where it hurts.

“It came as a shock.

“Like pulling out all the stops for a much-anticipated visitor to your home and thinking it has been a great success until somebody discovers he shat on the new carpet in the spare room, the one you bought specially for him.”

And there was this Irish Independent headline: “Dismay after Pence backs Brexiteers over Ireland.”

The perils ahead for Ireland are difficult to precisely define, but that there is actual peril is well understood, and reluctantly accepted.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Simon Coveney, has stated that the government will try to ensure checks in a no-deal Brexit will be carried out away from the border.

The BBC reported that Coveney said that Ireland would have to work to protect its place within the EU single market.

"We do recognize the reality that Ireland will have a responsibility to protect its own place in the EU single market and that will involve some checks.

"But I can assure you that we will try to do that in a way that limits the risk, and we will try and do it, obviously, away from the border," Coveney said.

Added the BBC report: “Mr. Coveney said the Irish government would not allow the country to be ‘dragged out of the EU single market by default as a result of Brexit.’”

Said Coveney: "If we're not careful, we won't take the necessary action to protect the integrity of the single market, and therefore, our goods will be checked on the way into France, Germany or Belgium.

"That would be hugely damaging to our business model and we cannot, and will not, allow that to happen.

"That is why we will face difficult choices in the context of how we introduce a checking system, somewhere, away from the border, for obvious reasons, that can protect the integrity of the single market and reassure other EU countries that share the single market with us that we don't have an open back door into the single market through Northern Ireland, if it's unguarded."

Coveney’s words, if nothing else, serve to underline Ireland’s vulnerability.

Coveney, according to another Irish Independent report, described a no-deal Brexit as “madness” and that it represented "a lose, lose, lose" for Ireland, the EU and the UK.

“The warning came as Mr. Coveney denied that he had given any briefing to Cabinet or studied any written report which indicated Ireland would lose 10,000 jobs within the first three months of a no-deal Brexit with the UK crashing out of the EU.

“However, the Cork TD said he believed the risk of a no-deal Brexit was now marginally less likely given events over the past 48 hours in Westminster.”

“Marginally less” stands as the good news right now.

There more ahead of course, lots more.

Next up is the planned meeting on Monday, September 9, between Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Dublin.

The meeting has been described in at least one report as a “showdown.”

Reported the Irish Independent: “Mr. Varadkar has indicated he will not be in a compromising mood when the British prime minister comes to Dublin on Monday.

“Irish officials are confident the meeting will go ahead despite Mr. Johnson's plan to try collapse his own government that evening.”

Nerve jangling times indeed.