IN three weeks time British Prime Minister David Cameron’s political career could be, by any meaningful criteria, over. Should Britain, on June 23, vote to leave the EU his position as Conservative party leader would be untenable.
Should his successor come from the extreme wing of Tory euroscepticism, as seems more than likely, an already difficult situation for Ireland would become the most challenging issue facing this economy.
Such a result would, unfortunately, undermine the likelihood of consolidating the recovery of recent years and threaten all of the social benefits that might eventually flow from that.
Should Britain vote to leave then that would lead to a period of strident, John Bull nationalism in every sphere where Britain and the EU interact.
How that realignment would affect us would hardly be an issue for the British eurosceptics determined to have their isolationism vindicated irrespective of the impact that might have on their nearest neighbour.
From an Irish perspective, the challenges of a changing trade and security landscape would not be resolved easily.
It would not be, to re-use a phrase once so helpful in confronting another strand of the destructive legacy of British imperialism, a relationship of equals. How could it be?
The population of London alone stands at something approaching nine million, around twice the Republic’s four-and-a-half million.
Whether we try to resolve the inevitable conflicts through the channels that have supported Anglo Irish trade for centuries or as part of a chastened and weakened EU seem immaterial.
Ireland’s interests would not be a priority for any of the main players; our fate would be little more than collateral damage as the grand shifts of history unfold.
It would be foolish and dangerous to dismiss this view as being overly pessimistic.
The latest polls put the “Leave” campaign ahead by anything up to five points. Just as in the Trump/Clinton race an outcome that was once scoffed at as an impossibility is now a very real proposition.
Should Britain decide to quit the EU it would do so at a moment when the United Kingdom’s domestic politics seem lost in a fog somewhere between disarray and dysfunction.
Almost 10% of the members of the House of Commons regard that ancient institution as the seat of a foreign power.
The Scottish Nationalists, variations of Tory eurosceptics in kilts if you like, dominate Scotland’s politics in a way that has probably permanently weakened the link between London and Edinburgh.
Under Jeremy Corbyn the Labour party has made itself unelectable and increasingly irrelevant so the counterbalance to neo-conservative economic policy does not exist.
In time, this is certain to undermine British politics and further divide an already less than united society.
It would be wrong of us to tell our British friends how to vote but it would be wrong not to voice very real concerns about the prospect of Britain leaving and all that would mean for us and the prospect of essential reforms in how the community becomes more democratically accountable so it might remain a bulwark of democracy and liberalism.
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