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A NEW UK in a Changing Europe report has sparked a new round of scaremongering with its finding that Irish people fear a return to political violence should Brexit result in a “hard border” between north and south.
There might be some dissident republican groups in Ireland who would be prepared to exploit public anger over border posts to launch a bombing campaign, though overwhelmingly republicans are committed to the peace process.
What this hypothesis ignores is that Theresa May’s government is not threatening to impose physical border controls between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Nor would any sane British or Irish government be likely to present dissident republicans with a new set of popular targets that might rescue them from obscurity.
Politicians and bureaucrats in Britain, Ireland and Brussels who wish to undermine and, if possible, reverse Brexit must also understand this perfectly well.
Nevertheless, they hype up the North-South border issue and the impossible prospect of a physical “hard border” with blatant disregard for the facts. They inflame passions that risk stoking the very violence they claim to deplore.
This campaign goes alongside the effort to inflate the North-South border issue into an enormous impediment that can only be overcome by keeping Northern Ireland in the EU single market and customs union or aligning the whole of the UK with their rules.
There is no other practical alternative to a “hard border” and customs posts, they claim; the notion of a “frictionless border” is a fantasy.
Curiously, nobody seems to have taught this mantra to the constitutional affairs committee of the European Parliament.
Last November, a report commissioned by this all-party group of MEPs, a majority of whom support EU membership, was published under the title Smart Border 2.0.
“In developing a solution for the Irish border, there is an opportunity to develop a friction-free border building on international standards and best practices, technology and insights from other jurisdictions,” the report declares. In some detail, it proposes “a new border solution that serves both sides of the border with maximum predictability, speed and security and with a minimum burden and cost for traders and travellers.”
In short, the report blows out of the water the cynical scares and manoeuvres being deployed in a disreputable effort to derail Brexit.
Italy and the European Union
The new coalition government in Italy is proposing a mix of policies, reflecting the very different programmes of the right-wing regionalist League and the populist Five Star Movement.
What they have in common is antipathy towards the pro-big business “free market” and monetarist rules of the EU and its eurozone.
EU anxiety over this unsavoury coalition is not focused on its hostility to refugees or the League’s flirtation with fascist forces to its right, but over the horrifying prospect of a government that increases public spending and breaches arbitrary deficit limits.
The right of the Italian people and their government to determine their own policies for Italy is a fundamental democratic and national principle.
The most likely alternative is the return of an unelected technocratic regime headed by former EU functionaries, as imposed by the financial markets, the IMF and the EU in 2011.
Nothing could be more likely to accelerate the lurch towards authoritarianism and far-right politics than that.
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