(Four-minute read)

As Brexit grinds its way to Mar 29 it is obvious to all in Europe that there is no fear of the Englishman turning into the “new Europeans”.

Brexit now has UK politics by the short and haires showing that it is in need of proportional  representation politics and not first pass the post.

Why?

Because the UK is made up of groups from 22 foreign countries that are estimated to consist of at least 100,000 individuals residing in the UK.

(people born in Poland, India, Pakistan, the Republic of Ireland, Romania, Germany, Bangladesh, South Africa, China, Italy, Nigeria, Lithuania, the United States, France, Spain, the Philippines, Jamaica, Sri Lanka, Australia, Portugal, Kenya and Zimbabwe)

677,177 classified themselves as of mixed race, making up 1.2 per cent of the UK population.

It is estimated that as many as six million people living in the UK have an Irish-born grandparent (around 10% of the UK population).

Indeed it would be fair to say that there has been so much immigration and intermarriage that it’s difficult to find a true “Englishman” whose bloodline, on both sides of the family, is so pure that he can trace his (her) dynasty to the point before England even existed.

On the other hand no group anywhere in the world outside Olduvai, in eastern Africa, can lay claim to being truly “native”.Résultat de recherche d'images pour "pictures of british history"

In the imperial imagination of British politics, there are only two states: dominant and submissive, coloniser and colonised. This dualism lingers. If England is not an imperial power, it must be the only other thing it can be: a colony.

This is the mental cartography that English conservatism cannot transcend – the map of a Europe that may no longer exist in reality, but within which its imagination remains imprisoned. “Europe.”

The tragedy of all this is the position that Ireland finds its self in.

The Anglo-Irish relationship has been the dominant theme of most Irish historical writing.

However, it is difficult to understand modern Ireland without understanding modern Britain, too. Current discussions around Brexit bear out the adage that the Irish never forget their history and the English never remember it.

Brexit certainly illustrates how the ‘Irish Question’ never dies; it just gets reformulated.

The notion that Irishness might be defined in opposition to England hardly comes as a surprise.

One only has to look at what Boris Johnson told theTelegraph on 14 May 2016, a month before the referendum and I quote.

“Hitler tried to unite Europe, so does the EU, therefore the EU is a Hitlerian project. But the lack of subtlety did not stop the trope from being used in the Brexit campaign: “Napoleon, Hitler, various people tried this [unifying Europe], and it ends tragically. The EU is an attempt to do this by different methods.”

I can’t help but wonder if the more gung-ho proponents of Brexit are even aware of the potential minefield that they are marching Ireland into?

Brexit now provides the backdrop to some particularly contested anniversaries: the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement (1998); the 50th of the outbreak of the Troubles (1969); and the 100th of the political partition of the island (1920) and the outbreak of civil war (1922).

The full consequences of Brexit remain to be seen.

Ironically, the cause of Irish nationalism was better served by Britain looking the other way.

As George Bernard Shaw observed, Ireland – which before independence had been regarded as a central part of the British polity – was relegated to the significance of a ‘cabbage garden’. It drifted to the edge of Westminster consciousness, allowing a fatal indifference to the flawed performances of the devolved regime in Northern Ireland.

Any attempts to undermine the Good Friday Agreement or to reintroduce a ‘hard’ border with Northern Ireland could negate many of the gains achieved as a result of the Peace Process.

Sharing a common European agenda has provided Ireland, north and south, with great scope to work together, to find common cause and to play down our differences.

The British Government’s (re)negotiation of the border between the UK and Ireland, necessitated by Brexit, is evidence of a blindness to the legacies of Ireland’s colonisation.

Similarly, much remains unknown about the Troubles (1969-98) that claimed over 3,500 lives. The Good Friday Agreement did not set up formal mechanisms for confronting the past akin to the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions established in South Africa and Latin America. Reparation has been conducted ad hoc by independent bodies, not via the criminal justice system.

Ireland cannot and will never recognise a border.

This remains the challenge of balancing opinions rooted in polarised politics and sharply differing visions for future Irish states, including the constitutional status of Northern Ireland.

A steady convergence of interests on the EU or the Peace Process in recent decades meant that there was no need to look to the past. That the British did not pay attention to Irish concerns at the time of the Brexit referendum is less surprising when seen in context.

A sense of British national identity developed during the 18th century in opposition to the French or, more generally, to Catholic Europe. Later, Britons imagined themselves as pragmatic and liberal, unlike militaristic, idealistic or excitable Europeans.

Unfortunately, whether there is a deal or no deal the damage is now done.

So we left with the British paradox:

If you were English, Brexit is bad enough, but what followed will be worse.

Outside the native ruling, class will be eliminated.

Think things are bad? Think again.

 None of this is necessary. There will always be one more thing.

All human comments appreciated. All like clicks and abuse chucked in the bin.

 

 

 

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