Dr Ray Bassett has questioned Ireland’s
Dr Ray Bassett, writing for London-based think tank Politea, warned Dublin the entire future of the bloc was “in doubt” and urged leaders to put his country’s interests first.
Concerns about the future of the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland are arguably the biggest headache for Brexit negotiators, with both sides keen to avoid the reimposition of a hard border which would be seen as a threat to 1999’s landmark Good Friday Agreement.
The former Irish ambassador to Canada, Jamaica and the Bahamas, who also helped negotiate the Good Friday Agreement, characterised the problems with the Irish border as “essentially political in nature”, declaring the importance of North/South trade to the overall economies of the Irish and British economies to be “relatively small”.
He added: “This emotive issue has been used as a weapon by those wanting to thwart the result of the Brexit referendum, including leading members of the British establishment.
“This is a very uncomfortable position for Ireland. Whatever the outcome of the Brexit process, Irish and British people will have to live alongside each other.
“Ireland’s history has been characterised on occasions by poor and short-term decision making.
“This is a time when Ireland should, by all logic, be working hard to ensure a beneficial outcome which restores the excellent relations between the two countries.”
As such, he said Ireland should be a strong advocate for comprehensive free trading arrangements between the EU and the UK – only for the border issue to “get in the way”.
Leo Varadkar has been told not to cosy up too much to the EU’S Michel Barnier Jean-Claude Juncker
He said: “We need to solve this matter as soon as possible and by a method which does not seek to scupper the referendum result. The history of ignoring and reversing referenda results in the EU is shameful. We certainly do not need another example.”
Quite apart from concerns over bilateral relations, Dr Bassett said Ireland needed to “keep its options open” when it came to the EU.
He said: “Until recently it was almost taboo, close to treasonous, for anybody in Ireland to seriously question the country’s slavish devotion to the EU, yet there are very few in Government circles who have a deep understanding of what the “Project” is all about.
“We can confidently predict, as elsewhere in the EU, there will be growing disenchantment with Brussels and the desire of Europhiles for a United States of Europe.
Dr Bassett said Irish PM Leo Varadkar should not overlook Ireland’s links with the UK
The whole sustainability of the European Union, as presently constituted, is in serious long-term doubt
“The whole sustainability of the European Union, as presently constituted, is in serious long-term doubt.
“Ireland needs to be on the right side of these historical developments.”
Dr Bassett said Britain had been instrumental in flagging up concerns over the way the EU operated over the years, including in areas such as reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and budgetary control.
He added: “The disenchantment with the Brussels model is also spreading to other countries. Recent elections in the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Hungary and Italy have all shown increasing support for a different type of arrangement in Europe.
“The sole exception was the particular circumstances in France, where the choice was between Macron and the National Front’s Marine Le Pen.
The 310-mile border between Northern Ireland and the Republic is a headache for Brexit negotiators
“Therefore, Ireland would be very short sighted to tether its future to a ship which is showing distinct difficulty in staying afloat.”
He said Ireland needed to look after its own self-interest, suggesting that the country’s “deep connections” with its neighbour, the United Kingdom, were more valuable than praise from Brussels for holding the line.
He added: “The further abandonment of Ireland’s remaining sovereignty is what is facing this country unless it changes course.
“There is no need for the Irish border question to either derail the EU/UK Brexit discussions or determine the overall agreement.
“The Border question has been used by elements within the Remain camp to try and block the UK’s departure from the EU.
“It is certainly not in the long-term interest of Ireland to be used in this cynical manner.”
Dr Bassett was involved in negotiating the Good Friday Agreement, which is widely seen as having brought an end to the “Troubles” which blighted the North for decades, as part of the Irish Government Talks Team.
His new publication Brexit – Options for the Irish Border, will be published by Politeia and launched in Dublin on September 19.