Britannia waives the rules, Sinn Féin MEP
Martina Anderson informed the European
Parliament this week, unaware that puns
do not translate into 23 official
languages. Maybe so, but Europe makes
the rules up as it goes along. An
examination of all the compromises
around the EU’s edges reveals anything is
possible, contrary to the impression
Brussels likes to give that its ‘fundamental
principles’ are as immutable as gravity.
So the challenge of Brexit is not getting
what we want but agreeing what we want.
Does that make it better or worse?
While Nicola Sturgeon seeks to do a
‘reverse Greenland’ – staying in the EU
while the rest of the UK leaves – another
autonomous part of the Kingdom of
Denmark may be more relevant to
Northern Ireland. The Faroe Islands are
outside the EU, inside the Nordic passport
union, a six-member Scandinavian
common travel area, but outside the
Schengen zone, the EU common travel
area to which the five other Nordic
countries belong. Faeroese people have
no EU citizenship but this is clearly not
inevitable, as Greenlanders still do. Could
we do a reverse Faroes, combined with a
forward Greenland? Answers on a Venn
diagram please.
Responding to the referendum vote, Invest
NI chief executive Alastair Hamilton said
Brexit will not deter the “vast majority” of
firms that had invested in Northern
Ireland in recent years, while uncertainty
over our future access to EU markets is
“completely disconnected from our sales
proposition.” This is in sharp contrast to
a statement two months ago from Mark
Ennis, chair of Invest NI’s 12-person
board, saying: “Given there is no clarity
on what the future relationship between
the UK and EU will look like, or what
policies the UK will pursue, the potential
upside of an exit in the long term is
impossible to objectively assess.” He
added there would “uncertainty” for
businesses during “any transition period.”
The Orange Order is getting another hard
lesson in why not taking a deal now
means a worse deal later. A hoped-for
solution to north Belfast’s ‘Camp
Twaddell’ dispute has fallen though in
part because sincere efforts by Sinn Féin
have been thwarted by careerist
dissidents in Ardoyne. Yet rather than
realise a last chance is slipping by, one of
the three Orange lodges involved has
backed out as well. Does it think next
year will be easier?
Former secretary of state Patrick
Mayhew, who died this week, is the
subject of a famous story that I sadly lack
the resources to verify but which I can
confirm is considered entirely believable.
According to legend, Mayhew emerged
from a sociable occasion one evening
and ordered his chauffeur to take him
unplanned and unannounced to Norfolk
Drive, official residence of Gerry Adams,
just to prove he could go where he liked.
In one telling of the tale, Mayhew got out
on arrival and strolled defiantly up and
down the street. The security panic this
would have caused in the mid 1990s
needs no embellishment.
Irish foreign minister Charlie Flanagan
has told British people to calm down and
stop swamping Irish consulates with
passport applications, as there is no
imminent prospect of anyone’s eligibility
being curtailed. However, the long-term
future of dual citizenship inside the EU is
a legitimate question. The Council of
Europe, a separate body, has operated a
treaty since 1963 for ‘the Reduction of
Cases of Multiple Nationality’. In time-
honoured diplomatic fashion, the UK and
Ireland have both signed this but
exempted themselves from the relevant
parts. The EU also wants EU citizenship
to supplant national citizenships and was
only stopped from implementing this in
2008 when an Irish referendum blocked
the Lisbon Treaty.
The Department of Communities has
published its annual Northern Ireland
Poverty Bulletin, which finds that one
quarter of children here are living in
poverty. Children’s commissioner Koulla
Yiasouma said “I find this shocking”,
which suggests she is not paying
attention. One quarter of children in
Northern Ireland are always ‘living in
poverty’, year after year, because the
statistic is defined to ensure this
meaningless result. Identifying the
mercifully small number of families in
genuine need would be a much better use
of everyone’s time and resources. But
sure, where’s the fun in that?
An early casualty of Brexit has been pro-
Leave People Before Profit, which arrived
at Stormont on a wave of popular
goodwill, only to have its obscurantist
world view rendered very unpopular
indeed. Leader Eamonn McCann says his
party had to provide an alternative to “the
racist, neo-liberal elite of the European
Union on the one hand and a raggle-
taggle collection of right wing loonies.”
That most people will now see that
alternative as a collection of left wing
loonies has either not occurred to the
comrades or apparently does not bother
By Newton Emerson