Brexit, bashing the British and border tags


Sir, – Stephen Collins is quite correct when he says “Brexit is no excuse for bashing the British” (Opinion, November 29th, 2018). He does somewhat undermine his generally good-humoured tone, however, when he informs us magisterially, “Of course the decision of the British people to leave the EU was a short-sighted one, facilitated by unscrupulous politicians like Boris Johnson, but there is no escaping the fact, for whatever reason, a majority voted to leave. That’s democracy”. How magnanimous.

The implication – typical of all Brexit coverage in The Irish Times – is that the English are, in fact, a bit thick to have been hoodwinked by charlatans, Russian bots and the NHS bus, God bless them. This rather perfectly encapsulates the condescending attitude Mr Collins is – supposedly – attempting to counter. (And as for Brexit being a short-sighted decision – does Stephen Collins have some insider information about where the EU project will find itself in 10 or 15 years that he want to share with us?)

Even a supposedly conciliatory article on Brexit in The Irish Times can’t resist a few of the usual patronising cliches about malleable, low-information proles voting, herd-like against their better interests in a “a political nervous breakdown”. This blinkered view of Brexit as a heretical act of self-harm is in some respects even more insulting than one of Fintan O’Toole’s hyperbolic gammon-baiting colour pieces. It proves, once again, that the Irish media simply refuse to examine the complex reasons behind the Brexit vote in any meaningful way and are, therefore, doomed never to understand it. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 3.

Sir, – There is a technological solution for Irish trucks passing over the British landbridge to mainland Europe. The current road toll tag is a clever device that holds a lot of information on the user including identification, car details, bank details and journey details. On the M50 it enables cars to pass by without a toll plaza and on other tolls to go through the fast lane without stopping.

This technology could be useful at a border post. Irish and EU trucks could be issued with a tag with all their details pre-loaded making the passage through England as it is now a free flow. UK trucks would not have it and would therefore have to go through a customs post. A hard border for Brexit and a digital border for the EU. – Yours, etc,


Skerries, Co Dublin.

Sir, – Stephen Collins is correct that sneering is unhelpful and reminds us that Ireland has voted against EU treaties in the past. This is certainly true but there are important differences between the Irish and UK votes.

Following the Irish No votes people reconsidered once the arguments of the anti-EU side were evaluated in the cold light of day. In contrast Brexit is fuelled by a general ignorance about, and lack of interest in, the EU by many who believe Britain to be superior to other European nations. Despite the exposure of the flaws of the Leave arguments and the damage Brexit will wreak on the rest of the EU, the UK does not propose to reconsider Brexit.

Indeed, the very notion of solidarity between Europeans, which lies at the heart of the EU project, is one of the main points of contention for the Brexiteers. Instead, the UK has a long tradition of sneering at other Europeans, from Manuel on Fawlty Towers to the common usage of derogatory names such as Paddys, frogs and krauts, to unchallenged media mockery of the EU.

Whether they are required in every case or not, one of the great benefits of our referendums on Europe is that the population is engaged in national debates on the EU on a regular basis and has the opportunity to consider each step forward we take together with our European neighbours.

In this regard we are entitled not only to feel that our engagement on Europe is far more productive than in Britain but also to feel disappointed at the UK for the damage it will cause as a result of tolerating a tradition of sneering at Europe for decades. – Yours, etc,


Gros Islet, St Lucia.

A chara, – George Bernard Shaw defined patriotism as the conviction that your country is superior to all others because you were born in it. In light of all the Brexit discussion, perhaps a suitable definition of sovereignty is the conviction that you can rule others better than they can rule you. – Is mise,


Lucan, Dublin.

Sir, – Messrs Rees-Mogg, Johnson and Raab and certain other members of the Conservative and Unionist Party, ought to be brought to an understanding of Linda Colley’s words published 15 years ago, “God has ceased to be British, and Providence no longer smiles”. – Yours, etc,


Bray, Co Wicklow.

Sir, – One presumes Stephen Collins has diplomacy, decency and decorum fully in his sights when he promotes an “anti-Brit-bashing” brigade approach.

Perhaps he could be assuaged  with a film version of “Carry on Brexit”, using the erstwhile esteemed British comedic  conduit, which derided many British traits. Alternatively, suitably wrought Brexit versions of Yes, Minister or Johnny English might fit the bill. No doubt the British, like the Irish, can laugh betimes at their idiosyncrasies and foibles.  

Satirical levity can be an elixir in an emergency, which the Brexit shenanigans surely is. Perhaps a  creative broadcast innovation such as “Collins Kicks” might well emerge from the sombre shadows of Brexiteering and its foreboding tentacles. – Yours, etc,


Lismore, Co Waterford.