The common sense approach to Brexit of the ex Taoiseach Enda Kenny has been replaced by vote chasing immaturity in Dublin, writes JACOB REES-MOGG
It is a pleasure to be writing for the News Letter, the oldest daily newspaper in the English-speaking world.
Since 1737, this title has survived the Napoleonic wars, two world wars and will soon have outlived our membership of the European Union.
This is something some people still struggle to accept. However, we voted to Leave and leave we shall.
The United Kingdom will not be made to vote again.
We entered the EU as one country and we will leave as one country, whatever the European Commission might desire.
This week Theresa May stood up and said No – firmly and unalterably.
The thing she said no to was the egregious act of aggression by the European Commission, under its lead Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, that a friendly European state should be dismembered at its behest.
This will not happen.
Our Union has endured rather more unpleasant threats than a policy paper out of Brussels which the prime minister has rightly rebuffed. But the presumption of Brussels in even proposing this is an unfriendly act.
Most obviously, because it shows clear disregard for the Belfast Agreement. What does the agreement have at its core? The cardinal principle of consent: that Northern Ireland is in the Union for as long as it wishes to be.
What did Brussels do? Ignore this completely.
Some Brexiteers have been accused of trying to undermine the agreement, when they have not. But when Brussels abandons one of its key tenets, no one seems to notice.
Then there is the further problem in what this absurd suggestion – that the Province should be detached from the rest of the country and become a protectorate of Brussels – in fact means.
It means that Brussels is still not being serious, and that vital voices in Europe actually seem to want a ‘No Deal’ Brexit. For it can be inescapable now for everyone in Europe that no deal could ever seriously be contemplated on these preposterous terms.
So why even suggest them unless No Deal is your objective?
In Northern Ireland, the DUP – our partners in Parliament and in the cause of keeping Mr Corbyn out of Number 10 – led the charge for Brexit in suitably principled fashion. Arlene Foster and Nigel Dodds campaigned for the Brexit this Tory government is delivering.
In the Republic of Ireland, we should note the common sense of Enda Kenny, who until last June was prime minister. Mr Kenny, an admired conservative politician across the continent, knew what was in his country’s best interests after Brexit.
It is no secret that in the wake of our vote to leave the EU, Mr Kenny took the mature, patriotic and above all else, responsible decision to work with the British government to help deliver the best Brexit for both our countries.
Sadly, this statecraft has been succeeded by irresponsible, vote-chasing immaturity in Dublin.
I cannot see how it is in the Republic’s interests for its current prime minister, Leo Varadkar, to posture in this way, not least by endorsing the fantasy proposals of Michel Barnier this week, which would do such comprehensive harm to the Belfast Agreement and risk No Deal, which would be more damaging to the Republic’s economy than to any other European state.
An election may well linger over the Republic but more than that is at stake here. Mr Varadkar ought to look to his country’s long-term interests clearly. I might add, his country’s interests are vital to no European state save our own.
If he is vague on this point he may recall how he and his fellow countrymen were treated during the period of the Troika. He should not put his faith in European princes, nor let himself be cynically exploited by them.
Ultimately, the Brexit talks, as they touch on the border, are, by baffling European design, the wrong way round: such issues as there are over the border will be settled, and can only be settled, once we have agreed a trade deal. Trade, then the border, not the other way round.
We are friends and partners forever in these islands, and the European Union neither caused that, nor must it get in the way of this unchanging relationship.
• Jacob Rees-Mogg is the Conservative MP for North East Somerset, and chairman of the European Research Group