In a half decent article by Polly Toynbee, ‘The Irish Question May Yet Save Britain From Brexit’ (The Guardian 28/11/17) she gives a hint at the Imperial rule that has so humiliated this small nation for so long. Toynbee writes; ‘They (the Brexiteers) pretended it was nothing. Reviving that deep-dyed, centuries-old contempt for the Irish, they have dismissed it with an imperial fly-whisk as a minor irritation.’ Beautiful written and historically accurate. But it is not enough. Neither Toynbee, or Andrew Marr or Jeremy Paxman before them, nor the whole gamut of liberal journalists currently plying their trade in Britain, can bring themselves to openly admit that the remnants of the British Empire still occupy six counties of the thirty-two counties of Ireland. This is not some small pedantic point. Just imagine if the Germans still occupied the Channel Islands. Would liberal Britain, let alone the thousands of rabid nationalists still lurking in the corridors of power, quietly acquiesce to mid-20th

century German imperial occupation? I think not.

 

 

As Toynbee’s article begrudgingly concludes, there really is no quick fix to the Irish question, short of finally relinquishing colonial control. And even if the British State had a mind to do that, given that the occupation of the six counties is now more of an economic and political burden than anything else, they dare not even countenance the possibility for fear of the entire Tory edifice unravelling in front of their very noses. The DUP really do have the Tories by the throat and in once sense it is rather entertaining to watch. Toynbee correctly argues that the problem could easily be solved by allowing the six counties special dispensation to remain in the European Union Single Market and Customs Union. But to do so would be tantamount to accepting full Irish sovereignty over the thirty-two counties. The Brexiteers just couldn’t stomach such a development and even if they could, the DUP and their neo fascist supporters just won’t play ball.

We are always being told that Brexit is a real opportunity. And in some senses, it is. Things that should have been resolved decades ago, ie. granting full Irish sovereignty and handing back Gibraltar to the Spanish, could all be wrapped up in one new Brexit treaty. And whilst we were at it, we could close down all the overseas tax havens, near and far, and in so doing, establish post Brexit Britain as a modern, law-abiding, post-imperial nation. Even old festering sores like the Falkland Islands could be finally lanced and at the very least, established as joint sovereignty with the Argentines. I suspect that Corbyn’s team are seriously looking at these questions as we blog, and one can only hope they do not get relegated to the ‘too hard’ basket. Given the intractability of the Irish border, it seems the Irish government has no intentions of letting any British government off the hook any time soon.

Toynbee’s reluctance to openly address the British occupation of the Six counties can be detected by what she doesn’t say rather than what she does. Toynbee, a strident Remainer, wastes no opportunity in lambasting the Brexiteers. ‘Brexiteers, thrashing around, accuse the Irish of using the border crisis as a devious plot to further a united Ireland.’ This is precisely the moment where Toynbee should declare her position. Does she support the inalienable rights of the people of Ireland to full sovereignty or not? She does not say. Does she regard the six counties still under British rule as a colonial occupation or not? She does not say. Does she accept it is the right of the Irish people to take up arms in defence of their sovereignty if they so choose? She does not say. By remaining agnostic on all these questions, she, along with rest of Britain’s liberal commentators, give tacit support to the ongoing occupation. To his credit, Jeremy Corbyn has continually been on the right side of this question of Irish sovereignty, and it would be a wonderful moment in history, as wonderful as Nelson Mandela becoming president of a non-apartheid South Africa, if a Prime Minister Corbyn could facilitate on his watch, the long overdue reunification of the Irish nation.

And it is worth recalling Karl Marx’s observation that the English will never be free whilst Ireland (or any part of it) is still in chains. Brexit is an opportunity to wipe the imperial slate clean but don’t expect the current gang of Brexiteers to be moving in anything like that direction. Quite the opposite. Only a Corbyn government can give us cause for hope.

End JPK  Copyright 28/11/17

Replies to: jon@sportingpolemics. com