I have just finished reading a book with the above title by Stephen Collins, the noted columnist with the “Irish Times”.
It tells the story of how Irish governments led by Enda Kenny, Leo Varadkar and Miceal Martin, dealt with fall out from the UK decision to leave the EU. There are so many twists and turns in the narrative that a summary is impossible within the scope of a short review.
The Irish Foreign Minister at the time of the Brexit Referendum in 2016 was Charles Flanagan, and he reacted to the decision with commendable speed and thoroughness.
He briefed his counterparts in all 26 remaining EU states about Ireland concerns, namely that of keeping the border open between the two parts of the island and preserving the Republic’s position as a full member of the EU Single Market. This laid the foundation of the consistent support Ireland has had for its position from all the EU institutions.
One political figure who does not emerge with much credit from Collins’ account is the current leader of the UK Labour Party, Keir Starmer.
In her final days as Prime Minister, Theresa May tried to assemble a majority in Parliament for deal that would have kept the entire UK in the EU Customs Union, thereby mitigating or removing the need for customs post either in ports, or on the land border. For this, she needed the support or abstention of the opposition Labour Party.
As Stephen Collins puts it
“ Corbyn was relatively open the deal, but Keir Starmer, who was in theory strongly pro EU, raised obstacles at every turn .”
This was the last chance of a soft Brexit. Defeating the Tories took a higher priority for Starmer than preserving good international relations. The story does not create much confidence about the level of responsibility one can expect from a Labour government in the UK.