No quick cure as Ire­land ex­am­ines Brexit headache

Bray People - - OPINION -

IT’S the econ­omy stupid.

Back in 1992 this sim­ple phrase – pro­moted orig­i­nally as an in­ter­nal slo­gan to keep Demo­cratic cam­paign staff on mes­sage – be­came the cor­ner­stone of Bill Clin­ton’s suc­cess­ful bid to oust Ge­orge Bush and take the US pres­i­dency. Since then the Clin­ton cam­paign’s snappy and highly ef­fec­tive mantra has been adopted by politi­cians across the globe and it has pro­vided the foun­da­tion for count­less suc­cess­ful po­lit­i­cal cam­paigns.

Sadly for Europe it seems the Remain camp in the Brexit cam­paign mis­laid their copy of the Clin­ton elec­toral hand­book.

Rather than fo­cus­ing on the ef­fects of Brexit on the British econ­omy and par­tic­u­larly on vot­ers’ wal­lets – ef­fects which are be­com­ing quickly and painfully ap­par­ent to the UK elec­torate – the Remain cam­paign al­lowed them­selves to get caught up in a per­ni­cious pro­pa­ganda war cen­tred on im­mi­gra­tion.

Ef­forts to steer the cam­paign to­wards eco­nomic is­sues were lack­lus­tre and ut­terly failed to cap­ture the public’s imag­i­na­tion, a gross failing on the part of the Remain camp given the Leave side’s woe­ful grasp of eco­nomic is­sues.

The di­vi­sion be­tween Remain’s lead­ing ad­vo­cates the Con­ser­va­tive and Labour par­ties – es­pe­cially the dis­mal re­la­tion­ship be­tween out­go­ing Prime Min­is­ter David Cameron and Jeremy Cor­byn – also didn’t help mat­ters.

In­stead of a sim­ple and co­gent warn­ing about the dan­gers of Brexit the Remain cam­paign of­fered the British elec­torate gar­bled, con­fused and mixed mes­sages.

Mean­while, Nigel Farage and his ilk on the Leave side were al­lowed to ham­mer home their crude anti-im­mi­gra­tion mantra. It was a sim­ple mes­sage that preyed on public ig­no­rance and fear and which rep­re­sents the very worst in mod­ern pol­i­tics.

That Remain al­lowed it to gain enough trac­tion to win the ref­er­en­dum is a trav­esty. It is also a dis­as­ter for the UK and Europe.

Brave and coura­geous de­ci­sions will need to be taken now and po­lit­i­cal par­ties across the con­ti­nent will need to put com­mon good ahead of their own elec­toral in­ter­ests. What­ever hap­pens, the com­ing months and years will see a mas­sive change in Europe as the EU and the UK ne­go­ti­ate how to dis­en­tan­gle their ex­ist­ing ar­range­ment and forge a work­able new one.

In this con­text Ire­land finds it­self in an un­for­tu­nate predica­ment.

As an EU mem­ber – and one that re­lies on the good graces of the EU more than most – Ire­land can­not af­ford to alien­ate it­self from other mem­bers in or­der to in­gra­ti­ate our­selves with our soon-to-be non-EU neigh­bours.

To avoid a domino ef­fect of coun­tries aban­don­ing the EU the union must take a tough stance with the UK. A sweet­heart deal that would al­low Bri­tain keep the ben­e­fits of mem­ber­ship while not be­ing part of the Union will not be on of­fer.

In the com­ing talks be­tween the EU and the UK, Ire­land must sup­port our fel­low mem­bers and fight for the fu­ture of the Union. How­ever, as one it is of Ire­land’s most im­por­tant trading part­ners and given the myr­iad of is­sues sur­round­ing the North we also can­not af­ford to alien­ate the UK.

Enda Kenny and his gov­ern­ment – who are in a re­mark­ably weak po­lit­i­cal po­si­tion – face a most dif­fi­cult task in nav­i­gat­ing this tricky Euro­pean tightrope. Lets hope they have a head for heights.

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