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Europhilia does not equal Anglophobia

by Frank Schnittger Fri Feb 5th, 2021 at 02:09:04 AM EST

Brexiteers generally have been puzzled and annoyed at Ireland's failure to follow the UK out of the EU. They have been especially irritated at the problems the "Irish border" has created for them getting the clean break from the EU that they wanted. That problem would have disappeared had Ireland, too, decided to leave the EU. Nigel Farage even came to Ireland to campaign for "Irexit", and his ex-communications director, Hermann Kelly, got all of 2,441 votes or 0.67% of the total in the Dublin Constituency in the European Elections in 2019.

But it isn't just Brexiteers who find Ireland's apparent Europhilia irritating and annoying. Newton Emerson, a Northern Ireland unionist and Irish Times columnist who voted Remain has just written a column entitled Unionism to squander opportunity presented by EU blunder in which he conflates Irish Europhilia with Anglophobia. Apparently it is inconceivable for even a moderate unionist to think of Irish people who support EU membership as doing so for any reason other than hatred of Britain.

Naturally I felt compelled to set him straight in a letter published in the Irish Times:(fourth letter down)

A chara, - According to your columnist Newton Emerson, the Article 16 debacle meant that "Irish Europhilia, mostly displaced Anglophobia, had met its Waterloo" ("Unionism to squander opportunity presented by EU blunder", Opinion & Analysis, February 4th). There are a number of problems with this statement.

First, Irish Europhilia, insofar as it exists, has got nothing to do with Anglophobia. Indeed, we joined the EU at the same time as the UK, as our economies were so intertwined, and pursuing a divergent path was not a realistic option for us at the time.

Second, membership of the EU has enabled us to develop from a relatively poor backwater on the edge of Europe to a relatively prosperous and outward looking social democracy increasingly integrated with the EU economy. We no longer measure ourselves almost exclusively against Britain.

Third, euroscepticism in Ireland, insofar as it exists, was long led by Sinn Féin and extreme Irish nationalism of a kind similar to the English nationalism that drove the Brexit project. Those who favour the European project are generally against extreme nationalism of any kind.

Finally, a fleeting mistake by the European Commission is hardly comparable to Waterloo. Those of us most engaged in the European project have also been most active in calling for its reform.

This is the first time the commission was asked to lead on a vaccine procurement project, and it clearly has much to learn about responding quickly and decisively in a crisis situation. - Yours, etc,

Newton Emerson is an astute observer of N. Ireland politics and generally a good writer. As a more moderate unionist he despairs of the DUP ever making the most of the political opportunity presented by the Commission's blunder on Article 16 to water down the provisions of the Northern Ireland Protocol. But he also can't resist taking a side-swipe at people in the Republic whose Europhilia he sees as just another form of the Anglophobia he detects in all political discourse here.

The sad fact is that people here are moving on from Brexit. The UK is out of the EU to general relief that that chapter has finally been closed. People no longer compare everything we do with how things are done in England and are much more interested in working more closely with our partners in Europe. What does concern us is that the Commission could have considered invoking Article 16 without consulting with the Irish government or Irish officials working in Brussels.

And it is in this context that two other letter writers today make interesting points: ADRIAN CONWAY asks whether the Commission would have made that mistake if Phil Hogan had still been Trade Commissioner, and Prof CIARÁN BURKE, laments the loss of "Irish Knowledge" in the Commission in the following terms:

Sir, - As the furore over the EU's abandoned invocation of Article 16 continues, Naomi O'Leary proposes that further faux pas may be avoided by renewed Irish engagement in Brussels ("Perils for Ireland in navigating fraught relationship between London and Brussels", Analysis, February 4th).

Noting that familiar faces such as Michel Barnier are fading from the picture, she makes the case for renewed engagement by Irish officials in EU institutions.

This idea undoubtedly has much to recommend it.

In relation to issues such as Article 16, Irish voices within the European Commission's staff are particularly valuable.

However, one of the less reported consequences of Brexit is that the definition of what constitutes an "Irish voice" in Brussels has changed.

When the Brexit referendum put their future employment in peril, UK nationals working in EU institutions scrambled to find themselves a second nationality. Unsurprisingly, many uncovered links to Ireland.

This presented a means for them to retain their employment, and, indeed, to retain influence in Brussels for decades to come.

The majority of this group are English-born, and have benefited from an elite English education, heavy on Latin and Greek, but light on Irish history and politics.

They are in no position to enlighten commissioners as to the delicate issues at play with respect to "the Irish question", and unlikely to don the proverbial green jersey when required.

Moreover, the fact that so many Brits have acquired Irish nationality means that the door will be closed for many Irish citizens hoping to forge careers in Europe, due to a surfeit of officials from a small member state.

Given that European Commissioner Mairead McGuinness's eyes do not seem as sharp as her elbows (having failed to notice the Article 16 problem), this issue is much to be regretted. - Yours, etc,


Ever since the Brexit referendum, demand for Irish passports has been extraordinarily high from British citizens ordinarily domiciled in Britain and with some Irish connections anxious not to lose the benefits of EU citizenship. Many are undoubtedly sincere in their commitment to their new nationality, but that does not mean they are experts in Irish affairs. N. Ireland residents have also taken up Irish passports in huge numbers, as they are fully entitled to do. But whether many of them end up being able to make a career in Brussels remains to be seen.

I doubt a different Irish commissioner would have made a difference. Not all commissioners/staffers are involved or present when the bosses make [stupid] decisions. In this case the notable mediocrity of vdL reliably 'shit the bed'. Something like this was bound to happen under the management of that 'experienced' politician. Didn't we say so in the good old days?

Schengen is toast!
by epochepoque on Sun Feb 7th, 2021 at 02:48:57 PM EST
The details are still a bit murky, but apparently the text of the draft regulation introducing the possibility of export controls circulated to other Commissioners didn't include the offending reference to A. 16. It was, allegedly, a last minute inclusion, introduced at a technical level, when someone pointed out the risk of vaccines leaking across the Irish land border.

This may all be self-serving nonsense, of course, but it may be that Valdis Dombrovskis, EU Trade Commissioner, was the only senior official to see it before it went "live". If this is the case, it would be surprising as Dombrovskis is the co-chair of a joint EU/UK committtee with Michael Gove overseeing the operation of the N. Ireland protocol, and would have been aware of the political sensitivities.

If this story is to be believed, the final text was only e-mailed to relevant officials, working from home, 30 minutes before it was officially adopted under an emergency procedure. It's not surprising that some officials, reading a dense text for the first time, didn't get to the offending paragraph in time, even if they had begun reading it immediately on receipt.

In any case it was retracted within hours, following frantic phone calls between Michael Martin and Ursula VD Leyen, and shouldn't be regraded as much more of an administrative SNAFU quickly corrected. This has not prevented Brexiteers and unionists trying to turn it into a major international incident. I also don't think it reflects badly on Ursula VD Leyen personally, as she would have been relying on her staff to deal with such matters.

So whatever you might think of Ursula VD Leyen for other reasons, blaming her for this is confirmation bias, except in the purely formal sense that she is ultimately responsible for everything the Commission does.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Feb 8th, 2021 at 11:19:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Bernard on Mon Feb 8th, 2021 at 08:44:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Co-Chair of the N. Ireland Protocol implementation committee is  Maros Sevcovic, not Valdis Dombrovskis, which may help to explain why the latter didn't prevent the A.16 blunder.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Feb 9th, 2021 at 01:07:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I wouldn't so much criticize the commission and its president for the vaccination delay problem where member states dragged their feet and didn't want to spend too much money.

What is concerning is that this vaccine export control act is a political performance act that is practically mostly useless. Export controls or not, vaccination will probably go full speed ahead only in Q2. Oh but now we have to be seen to do something quickly! Thus they cooked something up through an emergency procedure, end of the day ->> splash. And who set this train in motion? That's where we have the direct responsibility of vdl.

Schengen is toast!

by epochepoque on Thu Feb 11th, 2021 at 09:53:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I would take it a step further: the real problem is a lack of industrial policy to ensure that the EU has a good supply of home-made medicine. Such an industrial policy should at minimum include a medicine patent policy with the kind of clause Indian post-colonial patent policy had until the 90ies: if you don't produce in our territory we see no reason to hand out monopolies.

But preferably EU should go full delinkage: scrap patents for medicines, finance research from the public purse (grants and awards), and have competition in production. It was on the WHO agenda in 2014 and it had support including willingness to pitch in to research from the global South but it was shot down, mainly by the US.

In the current situation even pondering allowing generic production for vaccines that isn't delivered would probably scare Pharma enough to make EU a top priority.

by fjallstrom on Thu Feb 11th, 2021 at 10:34:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
AFAIK the Commission doesn't really do independent tribunals of inquiry like national governments do. But one should be instigated now to investigate what went wrong and make proposals for ensuring we are better prepared for future public health emergencies.

My guess is such a tribunal would make recommendations along the following lines:

  1. Establish permanent European medicines and medical equipment procurement agency (to maximise EU bulk buying procurement leverage and develop proactive policies to improve preparedness)

  2. Establish permanent public health research commissioning and funding agency. (Research should be prioritised by public benefit rather than private profit)

  3. Ensure the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has a fast-tract procedure for the emergency approval of medicines and coordinates with 2. above to ensure their is a proactive research program in place to anticipate future crises.

  4. Develop industrial policy/strategy to ensure that key/core manufacturing capabilities are developed in line with future needs within the EU. (To prevent another PPE scramble, but also to reduce dependency on vulnerable supply chains. This could be similar to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), and become a Common Industrial Policy (CIP), and apply more broadly to strategic industries in general, not just Pharma and Medtech.

It is important that any such proposals should be arrived at independently of the Commission, as otherwise the Commission will be accused of more scope creep and empire building. Perhaps the Tribunal of Enquiry should report to the Council and Parliament, rather than the Commission. Eurosceptics always complain that the Commission's answer to any shortcomings is always "more Europe", but in this case it may be that that is precisely what is needed.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Feb 11th, 2021 at 01:35:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We should nuke patents in general, but the EU refusal to support the Indien/South African proposal is completely indefensible. We'd rather burn down the world economy than risk someone cooking up the solution in a bathtub.
by generic on Thu Feb 11th, 2021 at 09:24:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
EU to bring in `Irish eyes and ears' to avoid another blunder
The European Commission is reviewing how regulations are made and its communication with Irish officials in a bid to avoid a repeat of a blunder seen to have destabilised Northern Ireland's delicate post-Brexit settlement.

It follows the use of the sensitive Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol in an initial version of a regulation last month, a move that was hastily reversed after urgent calls from Dublin.

Irish officials were only informed that the article had been used after the regulation had already been published, which immediately caused a furore in Dublin, Belfast and London and questions about how communications had broken down.


Anything to do with Northern Ireland is to receive additional scrutiny, with the team of Ireland's Commissioner Mairead McGuinness brought in to be consulted where needed.

"It's a widening of consultation, to make sure Irish eyes and ears are brought in to make sure there's no repeat of the mistake," a senior official said.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Feb 10th, 2021 at 12:48:17 AM EST
Whitehall gossip from Politico.eu:

Brexit's third act gets underway with a familiar plot line -- Northern Ireland

But officials insist that the relationship between Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove and his opposite number Maroš Šefčovič is significantly warmer than that between their predecessors David Frost and Michel Barnier.

"Their personal relationship has always been good," a Whitehall official said. "They get on well, but that doesn't mean they inherently agree on a way through. [Šefčovič] is constructive and solution-orientated, but certainly not a pushover."

Gove entourage expecting a sweetheart deal from Šefčovič (more and longer waivers), after not getting cake from "robotic" Barnier:

Gove has demanded tweaks to the trade rules on goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland to deal with border disruption, and he wants waivers on post-Brexit checks to be extended for nearly two years.

That may be pushing it, but officials on the U.K. side view Šefčovič as someone they can do business with, in contrast to Barnier, who London frequently criticized as taking a robotic approach to the talks.

Šefčovič is having none of it (with a little push from the EU ambassadors, reportedly):

Šefčovič offered a tough response to Gove on the eve of the meeting, with a letter of his own rejecting calls for tweaks to the protocol operations, at least until the U.K. complies fully with existing rules.

He pointed to a number of areas where Britain was falling short. He added that "blanket derogations" on customs processes for meat products, export health certificates and parcels "cannot be agreed beyond what the protocol foresees already," while flexibility on seed potatoes and other plant products would entail the U.K. aligning with EU rules.

Still stuck in "Groundhog Brexit".

by Bernard on Thu Feb 11th, 2021 at 07:20:02 PM EST
Brexit: UK, EU vow to address Northern Ireland issues after 'frank discussion' - DW
Senior British Cabinet Minister Michael Gove and European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic held "a frank but constructive discussion" with the Good Friday Agreement and issues over the supply of goods at the center of those talks, the pair said.

Their statement added that they would "spare no effort" to implement solutions agreed in December under the so-called Northern Ireland Protocol.

Relations between the UK and the EU have become increasingly fractious, with Ireland keeping a close eye on proceedings.

Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin has called on both sides to "dial down the rhetoric."

"We just need to calm it, because ultimately we want the United Kingdom aligning well with the European Union. We want harmonious, sensible relationships," he told RTE radio.

by Bernard on Fri Feb 12th, 2021 at 07:18:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"Gove has demanded tweaks to the trade rules on goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland to deal with border disruption" ...and tacitly assumes that such tweaks would work in favor of the UK.

Based on the example set so far, it seems more likely that the UK would use any such negotiations to pursue further short-term political support from, say, the fishing industry.

by asdf on Sun Feb 14th, 2021 at 05:51:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
More Brexit-buster ferry services between the Republic of Ireland and France. Your friend Newton wouldn't like that one bit.
by Bernard on Sun Feb 14th, 2021 at 12:57:38 PM EST
As expected.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Sun Feb 14th, 2021 at 03:28:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I wondered why the TIR sealed container process does not allow vehicles sealed in Ireland to pass through UK to the rest of the EU with no checking or a minimum of delay/checking/paperwork.

Given the effort to avoid the UK, it would appear not, but I have no knowledge of the process other than seeing the TIR plates on the back of lorries over many years.

by oldremainmer48 on Mon Feb 15th, 2021 at 05:43:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I suspect it is because there is no separate queue for TIR containers, and so they have to queue like everyone else in the run in to Dover. It's not a good look for the UK government to have Irish trucks whizzing past UK trucks in their own country.

A little bit of planning and goodwill between the UK and Ireland governments could solve that problem, but I suspect that may be something Gove is keeping in reserve as a bargaining chip for the N. Ireland protocol talks.

He needs to avoid overplaying his hand however. If this goes on for too long, carrying freight on direct Ireland/France/Spain routes will become the new normal and, as ever, there will be logistical pressure to ensure back-loads are full. The more Ireland gets used to sourcing goods from the EU the more Ireland UK trade will suffer.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Feb 16th, 2021 at 12:18:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
To wit:

Incidentally, I learned that "Embassy of Ireland in France" is actually: Ambasáid na hÉireann an Fhrainc.

by Bernard on Tue Feb 16th, 2021 at 07:01:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In our first official language...

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Feb 17th, 2021 at 07:39:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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