Columnists

After Brexit, the hard bit is agreeing what we actually want

Newton Emerson

Britannia waives the rules, Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson informed the European Parliament this week, unaware that puns do not translate into 23 official languages. Maybe so, but Europe makes the rules up as it goes along. An examination of all the compromises around the EU's edges reveals anything is possible, contrary to the impression Brussels likes to give that its ‘fundamental principles' are as immutable as gravity. So the challenge of Brexit is not getting what we want but agreeing what we want. Does that make it better or worse?

**

While Nicola Sturgeon seeks to do a ‘reverse Greenland' - staying in the EU while the rest of the UK leaves - another autonomous part of the Kingdom of Denmark may be more relevant to Northern Ireland. The Faroe Islands are outside the EU, inside the Nordic passport union, a six-member Scandinavian common travel area, but outside the Schengen zone, the EU common travel area to which the five other Nordic countries belong. Faeroese people have no EU citizenship but this is clearly not inevitable, as Greenlanders still do. Could we do a reverse Faroes, combined with a forward Greenland? Answers on a Venn diagram please.

**

Responding to the referendum vote, Invest NI chief executive Alastair Hamilton said Brexit will not deter the “vast majority” of firms that had invested in Northern Ireland in recent years, while uncertainty over our future access to EU markets is “completely disconnected from our sales proposition.” This is in sharp contrast to a statement two months ago from Mark Ennis, chair of Invest NI's 12-person board, saying: “Given there is no clarity on what the future relationship between the UK and EU will look like, or what policies the UK will pursue, the potential upside of an exit in the long term is impossible to objectively assess.” He added there would “uncertainty” for businesses during “any transition period.”

**

The Orange Order is getting another hard lesson in why not taking a deal now means a worse deal later. A hoped-for solution to north Belfast's ‘Camp Twaddell' dispute has fallen though in part because sincere efforts by Sinn Féin have been thwarted by careerist dissidents in Ardoyne. Yet rather than realise a last chance is slipping by, one of the three Orange lodges involved has backed out as well. Does it think next year will be easier?

**

Former secretary of state Patrick Mayhew, who died this week, is the subject of a famous story that I sadly lack the resources to verify but which I can confirm is considered entirely believable. According to legend, Mayhew emerged from a sociable occasion one evening and ordered his chauffeur to take him unplanned and unannounced to Norfolk Drive, official residence of Gerry Adams, just to prove he could go where he liked. In one telling of the tale, Mayhew got out on arrival and strolled defiantly up and down the street. The security panic this would have caused in the mid 1990s needs no embellishment.

**

Irish foreign minister Charlie Flanagan has told British people to calm down and stop swamping Irish consulates with passport applications, as there is no imminent prospect of anyone's eligibility being curtailed. However, the long-term future of dual citizenship inside the EU is a legitimate question. The Council of Europe, a separate body, has operated a treaty since 1963 for ‘the Reduction of Cases of Multiple Nationality'. In time-honoured diplomatic fashion, the UK and Ireland have both signed this but exempted themselves from the relevant parts. The EU also wants EU citizenship to supplant national citizenships and was only stopped from implementing this in 2008 when an Irish referendum blocked the Lisbon Treaty.

**

The Department of Communities has published its annual Northern Ireland Poverty Bulletin, which finds that one quarter of children here are living in poverty. Children's commissioner Koulla Yiasouma said “I find this shocking”, which suggests she is not paying attention. One quarter of children in Northern Ireland are always ‘living in poverty', year after year, because the statistic is defined to ensure this meaningless result. Identifying the mercifully small number of families in genuine need would be a much better use of everyone's time and resources. But sure, where's the fun in that?

**

An early casualty of Brexit has been pro-Leave People Before Profit, which arrived at Stormont on a wave of popular goodwill, only to have its obscurantist world view rendered very unpopular indeed. Leader Eamonn McCann says his party had to provide an alternative to “the racist, neo-liberal elite of the European Union on the one hand and a raggle-taggle collection of right wing loonies.” That most people will now see that alternative as a collection of left wing loonies has either not occurred to the comrades or apparently does not bother them.

newton@irishnews.com

Columnists

Today's horoscope

Horoscope


See a different horoscope: