The Republic of Ireland is a master when it comes to diplomacy.
It knows how to win friends and influence people the world over — a considerable skill, for which it deserves admiration.
Traditionally, the UK was also pretty good at charming people — indeed it was seen to have an almost unrivalled diplomatic service.
Yet it is Dublin which has effortlessly won the argument in Washington over the Northern Ireland Protocol.
This is baffling for a number of reasons, not least the fact that the Republic has a population and economy roughly one twelfth that of the United Kingdom.
More importantly, though, the UK is on most major international issues on the same side as the United States.
On page 19, the former Ulster Unionist leader and submarine commander Steve Aiken writes about a stark manifestation of the UK’s position as close American ally — the Aukus deal. This defence agreement between Australia, the UK and the US has enraged France, a country to which Ireland stays close, because it previously had a lucrative submarine deal with Canberra, which grew too costly.
But it is not just about money. It is also about values. Australia has previously held out bravely against an undemocratic, ruthless China when it comes to trade and any impingement on Australian sovereignty.
The UK and US have both also adopted a tougher line on Beijing than they once did, which is welcome, given China’s conduct in Hong Kong and elsewhere. The EU has not done.
Commentators love to sneer at any idea of ‘the special relationship,’ yet when it comes to issues of international import, Britain is known to be a good friend to America. As the Aukus deal shows, UK reach remains considerable post Brexit too.
It is a pity it has failed to use this leverage to secure the congressional support in the US capital that Ireland, and indeed Sinn Fein, have – to the detriment of Northern Ireland.
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