BoM May 2018

Our May book of the month is Tony Connelly’s Brexit and Ireland. We have previously featured  Ian Dunt’s, Brexit: What the hell happens now? so why another Brexit book? The answer is that Tony’s book is different in that there is not just an examination of the facts but also a much greater examination of the people and politics than in Ian’s book. It takes you right inside the corridors of power. This updated edition as of the 5th May, in Tony’s own words:  Brings the torrid tale right up to date (to the first draft of the Withdrawal Treaty). Covers the intrigue behind the Irish Protocol, how the Irish “backstop” was negotiated, and all that stuff.

More than any other journalist, RTE’s long-time Brussels correspondent Tony Connelly has been helping the public make sense of the implications of Brexit for Ireland. Now, he tells the dramatic untold story of the Irish response to this political and economic earthquake and lays out the agenda for the uncertain years ahead. Drawing on unprecedented access to insiders in Dublin, London, Belfast and Brussels, Brexit and Ireland is full of insights about how the EU actually works, and of colourful and revealing stories from the corridors of power. Connelly talks to the business leaders, farmers and entrepreneurs on the front lines of the crisis, and traces the various ways in which Brexit is likely to change our lives. Brexit and Ireland is an entertaining and revealing account of this ongoing drama, and a must-read for anyone who cares about Ireland’s and indeed the UK’s future.

Tony Connolly is extremely well connected and in fact may well have changed the course of the negotiations. On Monday the 4th Dec he tweeted

BREAKING: UK will concede that there will be no “regulatory divergence” on the island of Ireland on the single market and customs union, acc to a draft text seen by @rtenews.

At the time May was on her way to sign the draft withdrawal agreement, only to be frantically contacted by the DUP (who apparently are avid followers of Tony) who were deeply unhappy and vetoed the deal. It was not until Friday the 8th that the final deal was signed with the wording on para 49 changed from ‘no regulatory divergence’ to ‘continued regulatory alignment’ and an additional para 50 with the key phrase: the United Kingdom will ensure that no new regulatory barriers develop between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

The book has had many excellent reviews:

‘Required reading … As Ireland navigates its way through Britain’s withdrawal and the new Europe taking shape, this fine book offers an indispensable guide to the hazards and the opportunities along the way’ Denis Staunton, Irish Times

‘Excellent … It ought to be read in every European capital … Connelly examines how Brexit will affect every part of the Irish economy’ John Bruton, Sunday Times

‘One of the most enticing aspects of Connelly’s book is his promise to tell you the inside story of the Irish response. This is delivered on … He has an eye for human details that enrich the book: not only does he bring you into the room at Number 10 when Theresa May and Enda Kenny were engaged in the high-wire dance of working out the post-Brexit reality, but he tells you what they had for dessert … The first-hand account of the mass mobilisation of Official Ireland’s soft and hard power after the result, as negotiations got into gear, is engrossing’ Jack Horgan-Jones, Sunday Business Post

‘Magisterial … Connelly has encyclopaedic knowledge of European diplomatic processes and the political realities of the border, and is able to use them to great effect’ Donal O’Donovan, Irish Independent

‘I was completely absorbed by Tony Connelly’s Brexit and Ireland … Connelly shows that the implications for the Irish Republic extend to the entire economy and its relationship with the EU’ Brendan Simms, New Statesman Books of the Year

‘A valuable guide through the Brexit labyrinth’ Sunday Business Post Books of the Year.

Comments

  1. Samuel Johnson -

    It’s a masterful account of a great deal of the complexities that most in the UK are unfamiliar with, including, shamefully, even now, members of the British cabinet. Some of these are boring but important, such as fishing, others are matters of life and death, such as deduplicated cross-border specialist health services that receive EU funding. Many things depend on regulatory alignment, eg the laws and standards governing licensing of drugs and medical devices and recognition of medical qualifications. Without regulatory alignment everything grinds to a halt, but British govt politicians ignore it and spend time on fantastic schemes for deployment of uninvented technology to create the world’s first borderless boundary between two jurisdictions with different regulations.

    The book is well written and adds enough political texture to make it more than a review of a succession of necessary topics, such as the common travel area (widely misunderstood in the UK as some kind of panacea).

    If Ireland is the anvil on which Brexit is broken this book will afford deeper insight into why that happened than one will ever hear on Radio4’s Today programme, but in truth I believe the fantasy version with self-replenishing cake, was never achievable.

    Some mysteries remain. What exactly the DUP thought they were playing at opposing their constituents who voted to remain in the EU. And where they and the Conservatives expect to hide if Brexit damages the UK economy to the extent the UK govt’s own forecasts predict.

    Any Irish reader will draw satisfaction from both the quality of Tony Connolly’s analysis and the country’s now having the support of the EU in dealing with a partner whose govt has remained true to its historical nature in dealing with its closest neighbour.

    1. Sean Danaher -

      Samuel

      I agree. The situation in the UK is bizarre with the cabinet infighting about the “customs partnership” and the “max-fac” solution. Both of which have been already dismissed by the EU. The coverage in much of the UK press and the Today Programme and BBC is at kindergarden level.

      My reading of the DUP is that the are good at tactics but useless at strategy. They supported Brexit as a flag waving exercise and never expected to win. They have worked themselves down the end of a cul-de-sac. They are terrified of a United Ireland which they think of as apocalyptic. The ultimate irony of course is that their actions are hastening rather than preventing a United Ireland.

      Ceartainly things are very high stake at present. The Tories seem to have regressed to DUP mode, all tactics and no strategy. Keeping the Tory party together from day to day is all May seems to care about. To hell with the country. The propaganda arm of the Government, The Mail, Sun, Express, Telegraph and increasingly the BBC will blame the EU, the Remoaners, the Lords, the Judges, the Experts and Ireland – anything but their own lies and incompetence.

      Tony is excellent, the only one who comes close in the UK is Faisel Islam – It’s weird that Sky News has far better Brexit coverage than the BBC.

      The Tories have seldom been friends of Ireland, though Major and Cameron were possible exceptions. They seem to be reverting to a contemptuous arrogance which is coupled with breathtaking ignorance. The difference of course is that the power dynamic is now totally different, with the UK being in a far weaker position than Ireland. To the Brexiteer mindset this is such an alien concept that it is beyond comprehension.

      1. Andy Crow -

        “It’s weird that Sky News has far better Brexit coverage than the BBC.”

        Weird ?

        I think it might be that the BBC has skin in the game and Sky News feels rather more detached (?)

        1. Sean Danaher -

          The weirdness for me at least is that I have an intrinsic distrust of Murdoch. The BBC seems terrified; their shallow reporting and false equivalence over Brexit is a disgrace.

  2. Graham -

    I came across an article (https://www.scer.scot/database/ident-6316) in which the authors argue that the voices of the Remain voting NI & Scotland are being ignored by the UK and that this may have serious implications for devolution, compounded by the UK Government’s “Power Grab”.

    More generally, there is no strong political voice arguing against Brexit, arguing for staying in the EU and for working towards EU Reform. Remainers are virtually unrepresented in UK politics.

    1. Robin Stafford -

      One might note that the voices of Remain in London are also being ignored – the Remain vote in London was just behind Scotland and ahead of NI. I often find myself having to remind people that London is not Westminster or the City or the wealthy denizens of Mayfair.
      Overall levels of poverty are as high as anywhere in the country when housing costs are taken into account – or higher. See latest figures from House of Commons: http://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/SN07096#fullreport But people did not choose to blame their problems on immigrants or the EU. Its little consolation that London is projected to be less damaged by Brexit than other regions. Speaking as someone with roots in Cumbria and the North of Scotland.

      1. Graham -

        Good point. It’s easy to forget that London isn’t all billionaire kleptocrats and is at the same time home to some of the richest and poorest in the UK. And just having looked for the first time at Wikipedia’s analysis of the Brexit results I see that of the top ten remain areas, seven are in London. Otherwise it’s an appallingly dispiriting picture. Maybe it’ll keep a few PhD students busy for some time.

        1. Sean Danaher -

          Alyn Smith is much admired and Steve Bullock of CakeWatch is one of his researchers. One of Alyn’s speeches featured on the CakeWatch podcast a few weeks ago and very good it was too.

          As a Green party member I get updates from Molly Scott Cato and from Jude and Paul my two NE Labour MEPs. (We also sadly have a UKIP one).

          Yes I have seen Tony’s article, very informative if a bit long. There is an myopic focus on Westminster in the UK and very little in depth reporting; endless coverage of infighting in the Tory party.

    2. Andy Crow -

      The myth of Westminster is that the UK government is caring for and considering the needs of the whole of the UK.

      NI, Wales and Scotland at least have their national identities (much good it does them) but much of the rest of ‘The’ North and the ‘The’ Southwest must feel similarly invisible for much of the time.

    1. Sean Danaher -

      Alyn Smith is much admired and Steve Bullock of CakeWatch is one of his researchers. One of Alyn’s speeches featured on the CakeWatch podcast a few weeks ago and very good it was too.

      As a Green party member I get updates from Molly Scott Cato and from Jude and Paul my two NE Labour MEPs. (We also sadly have a UKIP one).

      Yes I have seen Tony’s article, very informative if a bit long. There is an myopic focus on Westminster in the UK and very little in depth reporting; endless coverage of infighting in the Tory party.

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