A highly respected former Irish diplomat is leading calls for a potential Irish exit from the European Union if satisfactory terms for Ireland are not met around Brexit.
Dr. Ray Bassett, who most recently served as Ireland’s ambassador to Canada, argues that Ireland is taking far too docile and conciliatory an approach in allowing EU leadership in Brussels to assume that Ireland will remain a part of the EU no matter what.
"The present instruction is that, at all costs, no indication can be given by our officials that our continued membership of the EU is in any doubt, regardless of the outcome of negotiations on Brexit. The policy is very much at odds with our national interest and in effect, no Irish government can give that assurance,” he said, according to the Belfast Telegraph.
"In the end, membership of the EU is a matter for the people of Ireland. If the terms offered to Ireland after Brexit mean we simply cannot live with them, then clearly our membership of the EU will be up for grabs."
He added that “we certainly hope we can continue as an active and supportive member of the EU, but we should rule nothing out. If we are determined to stay in at whatever the cost, then our bluff may indeed be called. In Brussels, as we saw in the infamous bailout and other matters, Ireland's national interest does not carry much weight nowadays.”
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Ireland has no natural allies within the EU, Dr. Bassett also noted, which will leave it especially vulnerable, with a great number of Irish interests linked to Britain’s.
"Ireland's indigenous SMEs and its labour market remain inextricably linked to Britain. The relationship in these areas is still more important to us than our relationship with the rest of the EU," he said.
"Post-Brexit, and on the assumption that Ireland will remain a member of the EU, the country will find itself alone inside the EU.
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Dr. Bassett’s stance differs greatly from those of the leading Irish politicians and policial parties. As John Spain, a columnist for our sister publication the Irish Voice, noted in the Brexit vote aftermath:
“The consensus is that although we must do everything we can to preserve our special relationship with the U.K. -- our billion euro a week in trade, the free travel agreement with mainland Britain, and the current invisibility of the border between us and Northern Ireland -- we have to stay in the EU. Coming out of the EU is unthinkable for us, it is argued, although the reasons why this is the case have not been spelled out clearly. Instead we are simply told that leaving the EU would be a disaster, so there's no point in even discussing it.”
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