Saturday, September 28, 2019

A must-read article about Britain and Ireland

There is an article by Brendan Simms, who is a professor in the history of international relations at Peterhouse, Cambridge, in the New Statesman which in my humble opinion is an absolute must-read for anyone who wants to understand the Britain/Ireland aspects of the Brexit process.

Both Brexit supporters and Remainers can learn from what Professor Sims has written: both will find things in it which they like and things which challenge them (and if you don't you have not read it carefully enough.)

It is not very often these days which you read anything which seems to display an empathic understanding of all three of the viewpoints of mainland Britain, Northern Irish and Ireland (26 counties)

In his article,

"From backdoor to backstop: Ireland’s shifting relationship with Britain and Europe."

Professor Simms sets out how since the Middle Ages, successive governments of first England and then Britain have been concerned to prevent Ireland (and indeed Scotland and Wales) being used as a backdoor invasion route against these islands from both hostile European powers and indigenous rebels and pretenders.

If this makes it sound as though he is criticising England or Britain for this, the article didn't come over to me as ignoring English and British concerns. That's because Brendan Simms also points out that they had good reason for those concerns, and he records some of the rebels and European powers who over the last few centuries have threatened or indeed attempted exactly that strategy.

I might add that as some of the foreign regimes involved in those plots, strategies and invasions are still rightly remembered even today both for aggression against all their neighbours and for purges and mass executions against people they didn't like, from burning alive those with the wrong religious views to industrial-scale use of the guillotine against people of the wrong social class or political views, it would have been surprising if any English or British government had not taken action to defend itself and its' people against such attacks. You don't have to excuse or justify for a moment all the actions which have taken place in consequence to recognise this.

Brendan Simms goes on to describe how this background has affected the Brexit process, particularly the policies of the Varadkar government in Ireland and the response to the backstop of politicians in the North of Ireland (particularly the DUP) and on the British mainland.

You don't have to agree with everything he says to realise that Professor Simms has some very significant and important insights into how the "Backstop" is seen in various different parts of the British Isles and about some of the challenges which both Britain and Ireland face going forward.

I would very strongly advise anyone with an open mind and an interest in either British-Irish relations or the future relationship between Britain and Europe (including whether and how Brexit happens) to read this New Statesman article, which you can do here.

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