Well, we didn’t have to wait too long for more hysteria from the bitter ex. The ink is barely dry on the Trade Deal, and the Euro-fringe is frothing. Nobody likes being dumped, particularly the unhinged ones.
Erasmus getting kicked to the kerb is neither ‘spiteful‘ nor ‘cultural vandalism’, to quote some of the more prominent psycho-federalists, who are doing their nuts at the abandonment of a state-aided jolly. It is nothing so dramatic. Simply a feature of the previous relationship that fell by the wayside during negotiations. It obviously was not that important to the EU, who recoiled at sucking up the cost unilaterally. It must have been a question of money for both sides, then. Fair enough.
But it didn’t end there. As if the psychodrama warranted a prompt ratchet upwards, the Irish Government slithered in to announce that it would fund Erasmus applications for Northern Irish fledglings who would otherwise have missed the gravy boat.
A seemingly adroit manoeuvre, but hardly an overly extravagant one at €2m per annum that stacks up as less than 1% of the UK’s former annual Erasmus outlay. And to those who thought this was another step towards Irish unity, think again. Those eligible for this scintilla of Paddy power would be British passport holders. Yep – those who would not of their own volition had opted for an Irish passport under the terms of the GFA. So, as it turns out, this was no more than a nice freebie for Unionism from the Irish taxpayer. Whoops.
On Irish unification, that is not the half of it, though. In the event of an emerald splice, the Irish taxpayer will be stumping up an additional €2,000 per year for the foreseeable future. They might want to procure some free intra-EU consultancy from their spikey-hatted buddies in Berlin on the subject of unification. Northern Ireland is a pricey gig, just as East Germany was.
30 years ago, the German public went with their hearts and against their heads with the unification tick. Many bitterly regret it to this day, and yes, they are still paying for it through the nose, helmet, and the catalytic converter.
Ironically, that primacy of sentimentalism over pragmatism is exactly the criticism levelled against the UK with Brexit, but hey ho. However, if the people decide, the people decide. That’s democracy.
The Germans were however sufficiently savvy to promptly jettison the label ‘Wiedervereinigung’ (‘Reunification’) and to embed ‘Vereinigung’ (‘unification’) as the motif du jour, yet it did not save them from a spanking at the bank. This was a joining-together of two very different nations, and the Irish may need to bone up on how that rolled. Indeed, some are now mooting the concept of a ‘shared Ireland’, which has all the unifying allure of a soft Brexit. Once the music stops, the ticking parcel is going to be hurriedly bunged over before the UK scarpers.
Furthermore, there is an added ingredient for the pragmatists to ponder on the Emerald Isle – the return of the Troubles, though this time flipped over onto Dublin’s lap. Not all Irish eyes are smiling unreservedly on unity, but reality has not yet cascaded down to the idealists in Brussels. Indeed, during the Brexit negotiations, French President Macron remarked that unification ‘… would solve all the problems, but it is not up to France’. And this is from the same EU that waved ‘peace on the island of Ireland’ in everybody’s faces as the principal sticking point in Brexit negotiations? Sounds like it’s not just the English who do not understand Ireland.
Perhaps there is also a lack of understanding of the UK, which given our troubled membership of the EUSSR should not come as too much of a jolt. All this triumphalist gloating about ‘the break-up of the UK’ misses a vital point: London arguably perceives a referendum success for Republicans as a clean pass to offloading one fat, steaming problem.
Over to EU.