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By Jason Michael
Ireland has become one of Brexit Britain’s last viable bargaining chips, and so Theresa May has started the ball rolling on an Irish media manipulation strategy by which she hopes to bully Ireland to Britain’s side against the EU.
Our neighbours in Ireland are wakening up bemused at the news that “Irexit” – a Brexit-like Irish exit from the European Union – has become a thing. “Irish diplomat” Ray Bassett has published a 41 page policy document, After Brexit, Will Ireland be Next to Exit, outlining the “necessity” of an Irish departure from the EU in the wake of Brexit. There are, however, a number of problems with this piece of Irish policy advice; beside the fact that it is neither Irish nor policy. Ray Bassett is not an Irish diplomat. He is a former Irish diplomat – previously holding the posts of Ambassador to Canada, Jamaica, and the Bahamas, and his report was written for a UK right-leaning think tank Policy Exchange. During an interview with the BBC on the subject of his invented Irexit he quoted a poll conducted by the Sunday Business Post suggesting most Irish people would be in favour of leaving the EU, but failed to mention he writes for the paper.
LEAVE.EU 🇬🇧 (@LeaveEUOfficial) July 03, 2017
Smell a rat? Well you should. Policy Exchange is not a neutral actor, employing experts to imagine possible solutions to political and economic problems. Think tanks are state political tools charged with the task of devising ways and means of implementing political policies. Policy Exchange is a British Conservative think tank, therefore currently acting on behalf of the UK’s Brexiteer government, founded by Nick Boles, Michael Gove, and Privy Council member Francis Maud, and presently under the directorship of Dean Godson; all influential members of the British Conservative Party. Policy Exchange has an agenda, and right now that agenda is Brexit.
Without there being the slightest appetite in the Republic of Ireland for an exit from the EU – with most Irish people agreeing with their Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and their former Taoiseach Enda Kenny that “the foundation of Ireland’s prosperity and the bedrock of its modern society was membership of the European Union” – it can only be surmised that the deployment of Policy Exchange in the creation of an Irexit is a British flanking manoeuvre designed to destabilise the European side of the Article 50 negotiations now underway in Brussels. Why not? Removing the question of the Irish border from the table would be very much in Britain’s interests; maintaining the open border policy between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland while freeing itself to bail on the rest of the talks.
Carole Cadwalladr, the Guardian and Observer journalist who broke the story on the US dark money connection with the UK Leave campaign, tweeted: “Thinktank pays obscure retired civil servant. BBC reports it as ‘news;’” connecting the dots between dark interests and big money in the US and the UK’s strategy to break the unity of the EU.
Read this. How dark money buys the news. Thinktank pays obscure retired civil servant. BBC reports it as "news". I… twitter.com/i/web/status/8…—
Carole Cadwalladr (@carolecadwalla) July 04, 2017
Naturally there are a couple of questions we have to ask; who is funding Policy Exchange and why exactly is a British policy influencer trying to sway political and public opinion in Ireland? Funding is a mystery. We simply do not know where Policy Exchange gets its money. The Open Society Foundation’s think tank Transparify, in a 2016 report How Transparent are Think Tanks about Who Funds Them, rated Policy Exchange as “highly opaque,” stating that it was one of a “handful of think tanks that refuse to reveal even the identities of [its] donors.” On the Who Funds You website Policy Exchange is listed in the “E” category, the lowest category it gives for funding transparency. We do not need to be convinced that it is no good thing that the most influential pro-government policy nudging organisation is funded by completely unknown third party backers, and it is certainly not in the interests of Ireland that such a tool is being put to work against it.
When The Times of London columnist Melanie Phillips enters the debate suggesting that Bassett’s Irexit would be beneficial for the Irish economy and solve the Irish-Northern Irish border question we know that this scheme bears the paw prints of the right-wing British establishment. As an outrider for the establishment, let’s remember, it was Phillips who claimed in March this year that Ireland “has a tenuous claim to nationhood;” seeing the Irish as a mere subgenus of the culturally superior British. When Phillips says that anything is good for Ireland what she really means is that what Ireland does should be good for Britain.
Britain is doing what it has always done in Ireland; using it as a means to its own ends, no matter the cost this has for Ireland and the Irish people. Theresa May’s negotiating team in Belgium is in desperate trouble. It has been backed into a corner over a trade deal – an agreement that will be the making or breaking of post-Brexit Britain, knowing that any possibility of a deal now relies on the nature of the outcome of the Article 50 talks. Initially the UK plan was to sink the negotiations at the earliest opportunity and walk away from the table without picking up the £100bn bill it owes. After being reminded by Jean Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, that the bloc was “not a golf club,” Westminster has been forced to rethink.
Now the British plan is more aggressive. Other reminders were given that if Britain attempted to change the laws regulating the status of EU citizens residing in the UK before the completion of the process it would be in breach of European law. That bargaining chip neutralised, May has turned to fisheries and undermining the EU in Ireland; the only member state over which the UK still has some influence. By insisting that Britain will take back its 12 mile coastal boundaries May is now hinting at a hard-edged economic war against the EU, a move that will have serious implications for “friends and allies” France, Belgium, Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands.
Ireland, the most geographically vulnerable state in any post-Brexit scenario, is overwhelmingly on the side of the EU, and this has been expressed repeatedly – even in the depths of its recent economic crisis. Theresa May has done everything in her power to harry the Irish to Britain’s side; undermining the Good Friday Agreement in the North – making a return to the violence of the Troubles a realistic outcome for a non-compliant Ireland, and threatening its €533m fisheries industry. All that is needed, she is guessing, is a little persuasion. Enter Ray Bassett and Policy Exchange.
Ireland is perhaps the only EU member state as preoccupied with Brexit as Britain itself. Much of the Irish economy is highly dependent on trade with the United Kingdom and so the Irish government is busy looking for solutions to the increasingly likely worst case scenario. Anyone looking for ideas in a desperate situation will listen to ideas, and the British government is now supplying them in a Dublin accent. This Lord Haw-Hawesque approach is right out of the pages of Britain’s “smart warfare” playbook – the psych tactics it developed for use against the civilian populations of Iraq and Afghanistan. Present a seemingly rational case in an indigenous voice and soon the subjects will begin to think of these ideas as their own.
The intention of presenting this Irish idea on the BBC as news is to spark public debate in Ireland, hoping it will grow into a Brexit-like popular movement in the Republic. Ireland knows EU membership is in its best interests, but the BBC is a powerful influencer – even in Ireland – and public opinion, as the Leave campaign learned, is fickle and easily manipulated. Our neighbours in Ireland should be mindful of the game that is now being played with them, but something tells me – given that Ireland has always been hurt when it becomes the focus of London’s attention – that few in Ireland will fall for this devious ploy.
Irish MEP rejects UKIP’s call for an #Irexit