Brexit—a ‘trackless desert’?

Published in Editorial, Issue 5 (September/October 2019), Volume 27

editorThis September marks the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War—or the ‘Emergency’, as it was officially described here with heroic understatement—and in this issue John Gibney and Michael Kennedy outline the genesis of independent Ireland’s policy of neutrality (pp 48–51). That inevitably raises the question of whether it was the correct, moral, position to take. Neutrality, however, was the default position of almost every state at that time, including the United States and the USSR. Neither entered the war until they were attacked. And, for a small state like Ireland, what had morality got to do with it in any case? Self-preservation was the name of the game—and not some sense of insularity or Anglophobia.

As the article points out, neutrality was a leap into the unknown—a ‘trackless desert’, in the words of senior diplomat Michael Rynne. The same description might well be applied to our current Brexit predicament. Two months out from the UK’s departure from the EU on 31 October 2019 (‘No ifs, no buts’, according to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson), we are still no clearer on what will happen but with a ‘no-deal’ exit the most likely.

While there’s little doubt that a no-deal Brexit will be disruptive, will it be as bad as some of the Cassandras have predicted? Will the sky—or even aircraft—fall? Or will this go the same way as the ‘Millennium bug’? (Remember that?) Perhaps the landscape is not so trackless after all. Even if there is a no-deal Brexit on 31 October, some sort of deal will have to be negotiated subsequently between the UK and the EU. Equally, the Good Friday Agreement, Strand 2 of which is premised on regulatory alignment between North and South, will have to be honoured.

6 Palmerston Place, Dublin 7


Copyright © 2024 History Publications Ltd, Unit 9, 78 Furze Road, Sandyford, Dublin 18, Ireland | Tel. +353-1-293 3568