There have been so many twists and turns in the Brexit saga that at times the whole process seems surreal. Truthfully the phrase that most often leaps to mind is that you couldn’t make this stuff up. However, it is at moments like this that it is worth standing back and try to imagine how historians will view all of this. I have held the opinion for some time that the Taoiseach has adopted a risky strategy by his inflexible approach to the Backstop. In blunt terms this country will suffer catastrophic economic damage if the U.K. crashes out of the E.U., and if it was perceived by the electorate that a proportion of the blame lay at the door of our government the consequences could be severe. The danger for Fine Gael is that Fianna Fail have adopted a more nuanced approach and voters might conclude that if a more mature leader like Micheal Martin were in charge a way would have been found to put this contentious issue to bed. I have said it before that what was required here was a European Speciality – a fudge. Nobody in their right mind wants a hard border, but surely it is not beyond the wit of the armies of civil servants both here and in the U.K. and E.U. to have come up with a suitable wording, but for that to happen it requires imaginative leadership.
The other damaging aspect to this is the obvious deterioration it has caused in Anglo-Irish relations. This is an aspect I find fundamentally depressing. I was born in Dublin and brought up in County Meath, but because of my Anglo-Irish background can well remember the disturbing intimidation in the early eighties. Unfortunately some of the rhetoric both sides of the Irish Sea recently has done much damage to the progress achieved as a result of the Good Friday Agreement. The tone from our government has not helped in this respect. I thought the words this week of Ivan Rogers, the U.K.’s permanent Representative to the E.U. until 2017, hit the nail on the head. “ I think the mutual animosity over the Backstop question and how it has been handled by respective capitals has soured the mood quite a bit”. So many people have struggled for so long to bring peace and reconciliation to our island and quite frankly I take a pretty dim view of anybody whose ill thought out actions or careless rhetoric threatens to turn the clock back.
Still, standing back helps place matters in perspective. Brexit may continue to dominate the headlines but the really big and ominous story of the week is the horrific cyclone that has hit Mozambique and Zimbabwe. There is no question that the storms intensity and, more importantly, the amount of water dumped on the region, lies at the door of climate change. It is an irrefutable fact that those areas of the world that are most vulnerable to events of this nature tend to be the poorest and those most guilty of contributing to the problem tend to be the richest. As we now well know, our record on climate change is shameful. As somebody involved in the tourist trade I am well used to promoting our green and pleasant land but these days I have to say I am beginning to feel somewhat of a hypocrite. As our Taoiseach contemplates the danger of the U.K. crashing out of the E.U., perhaps he might give some thought to the waves crashing into Africa.