Brussels is really exploiting Irish concerns to try to weaken British democracy

The enthusiasm with which Irish politicians have marched to the EU’s tune on Brexit and the border is embarrassing.

I spent much of my youth asking the British government to butt out of Irish affairs. “Hands off Ireland!”, the placards said on our long, lonely marches round Westminster.

Now I find myself in the weird position of pleading with Ireland to stop meddling in British affairs.

“Hands off Brexit!”, I want to say to the Dublin political set that has let itself be used as leverage by the EU in its war against the British vote for Leave.

The enthusiasm with which Irish politicians have marched to the EU’s tune on Brexit and the border is embarrassing.


The excitable grin on Leo Varadkar’s face in every photo of him with Donald Tusk brings to mind the school square overawed that a popular jock said “hi” to him in the hall.

Some in the Irish political class have been made all aflutter by the love-bombing from Brussels. “The EU is fully behind you”, said Tusk to the Taoiseach, making Dublin 4 swoon.

It isn’t hard to see why Irish politicians have gleefully signed up for the role of albatross around the neck of Brexit that Brussels has written for them.

It has propelled them on to the world stage. It allows them to rise above the latest scandal blighting Irish political life and to appear temporarily statesmanlike.

And yet they’re still wrong to cosy up with Brussels. First, because you are being used not to iron out the border issue, but to dent democracy across the Irish Sea.

And secondly - and this really cannot be said often enough - the EU is not your friend. And it will drop you like a bad habit when it becomes convenient to do so.

What looks like Brussels love is really an expedient exploitation of Irish concerns to try to weaken British democracy.

No one in Britain wants the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland to ossify. No one’s arguing for that. Rather, this fear of a firmer border has been ramped up by Brussels to paint Brexit as a harbinger of division.

It would be better, Brussels hints, if Northern Ireland and maybe the rest of the UK just stayed in the Single Market. That is, if we agreed to continue abiding by Brussels-made rules that 17.4 million of us voted to wriggle free from.

Phil Hogan, the Irish EU Commissioner for Agriculture, gave the game away when he said Dublin would “continue to play tough”, because the only way to resolve the “border issue” is for Northern Ireland, and ideally all of Britain, to “remain in the EU Customs Union, or better still the Single Market”.

This is what Tusk meant when he made the spectacularly undemocratic comment that “the key to the UK’s future lies, in some ways, in Dublin”.

This is an affront to the basic democratic principle that a nation should decide its future for itself. Tusk made this affront not because he respects Ireland, but because he spies in the border issue a means of pressuring Brits to stay in his market.

The idea that Britain’s future no longer lies with British voters, but rather with Irish politicians we did not vote for, is outrageous. I don’t care how flattered Irish politicians feel - they should reject this responsibility cynically foisted on them by the EU and stand up for the right of Brits to be “the key to the UK’s future”.

The EU’s flattery of Ireland will be shortlived. Is historical memory in such a parlous state that the Irish have forgotten how badly the EU has treated them?

The idea that the EU respects Ireland’s national integrity or popular sovereignty is a sick joke. Consider how EU officials responded to the Irish votes against the Nice Treaty in 2001 and the Lisbon Treaty in 2008 (early anti-EU revolts which inspired us Brexiteers).

The EU demonised you as the dumb victims of populist demagogues and made you vote again. You were “ungrateful bastards” then, in the words of one Brussels insider.

The pro-EU French newspaper Liberation summed up the Euro-contempt for Ireland: it accused you of being “treacherous”, like children who had “spat in the soup”. Children - nice. A suitably colonial insult.

Have we forgotten the arrival of the Troika and its enforcement of spending cuts that the Irish people didn’t vote for, and many opposed?

If the EU liked you as much as Tusk now makes out, it wouldn’t have virtually occupied your government departments or rubbished your people’s votes against EU expansion.

EUphiles suddenly love Ireland for one reason only: they see you as a potential truncheon against Brexit.

Refuse this role of patsy, please, and recognise that there is something that threatens your nationhood far more than Brexit ever could: the suspicious, meddling oligarchy that is the EU.

Brendan O’Neill is the editor of Spiked Online and a columnist