It’s been revealed this morning that the UK government tried to block an Irish unity declaration into the final draft of the EU Brexit Mandate during the extraordinary summit of EU leaders in April. The declaration, which was adopted into the mandate ahead of Brexit talks with the UK, stated that in the event of a future unity referendum in Ireland, as seen by the Good Friday Agreement, Northern Ireland would automatically rejoin the European Union.
According to the Irish national broadcaster RTE this morning, the British government moved to get the declaration held off until after the UK general election, in an attempt to prevent any damage to Theresa May’s election bid.
A long term plan
The Irish government had been working on the declaration for a number of months prior to the summit, but were approached by the Monthy Python sounding British Department for Exiting the EU, who attempted to set up a call between Irish leader Enda Kenny and UK prime minister Theresa May. Mr Kenny did not accept the call and what followed was a barrage of follow up calls from London to Dublin in further attempts to stall the declaration.
Despite the pressure from Britain, Mr Kenny went forward with the declaration which was unanimously adopted by the other 26 member states.
Acting Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny
According to RTE, a senior EU source said that Downing Street was reminded that because of the Brexit result, Mr Kenny was still “around the table”, whereas Mrs May was not. The source also said that Downing Street was informed that if Mr Kenny requested the unity clause, it would be accepted.
Ireland no longer so easy to influence
Mr Kenny has recently stepped down as the leader of Fine Gael and the Irish government, and his party successor Leo Varadkar is due to be accepted as the new Irish leader later this week.
It seems that yet again, Downing Street has failed to understand the Irish government’s position on relations with Westminster regarding Brexit. This incident has the air of superiority by Mrs May’s government which seems to have completely misread that the Irish government is no longer under the thumb of Britain and is not so easy to influence. This is more evident given the fact that Brexit, despite having nothing to do with Ireland, is causing an enormous amount of social, economic and diplomatic chaos on an everyday basis in the Irish state. It also seems, judging by the response from the EU source, that Downing Street has far less influence in Europe than ever before.
Maybe this diplomatic cock up is an early indication of the pain that is yet to come for Mrs May and her strong and stable coalition?