Well, that was an unnecessarily unpleasant Friday Evening.
It turns out that the EU isn’t going to unilaterally reintroduce a hard border in Northern Ireland. Hooray. After spending five years worried that the idiot British Tories, egged on by the idiot DUP, were going to try and unilaterally reintroduce a hard border, it came as an interesting plot twist for the EU to be the ones to try and do so, and at the end of a working week no less. They made a climb down later in the evening, but, as Moe says, that was a scary couple of hours.
The context for all this is the fight between the EU and AstraZeneca over the delivery of tens of millions of vaccines. AstraZeneca claim that their contract with the EU doesn’t require them to change their order of priority delivery. The EU claims their contract with the drug company in fact does entitle them to a certain percentage share of all the vaccines produced.
There has been an undignified week of briefings and counter-briefings played out across the European press. Throughout, both the EU and AstraZeneca have come across as alternately petulant and absurd. At the start of the week there was a humiliating episode where both parties accused the other of not showing up for a meeting, or of lying about the attendance at said meeting. This type of gossiping and shit-talking is played out daily in offices across the world, but it is frankly demeaning to see an international government act this way over so serious an issue as vaccination.
Yesterday’s farce is the latest in a growing genre of error; of larger governments nearly screwing up Ireland through sheer ignorance. According to reports on RTE, the Irish government, an actual member state, was not informed beforehand of the move to blow up the Irish border protocol. Apparently, neither was Stormont or Downing Street. According to some reports, the commission did not even contact Barnier’s Brexit task force. In other words, the commission did not think to ask anyone who might know better about the potential consequences of their diplomatic nuke. What is the point of a government of technocrats if they do not even conspire effectively?
Irish citizens apparently have few useful friends. We’ve all spent the last few years switching between head-in-hands despair and outraged laughter at the behaviour of Westminster and their DUP lackeys. London has lost much of the goodwill generated in the peace process through its cavalier disregard for Irish politics and society. The DUP have discovered new realms of error and calamity in their attempts to square the circle of exiting the EU while protecting the (British and Northern Irish) Union. Throughout, members of governments outside of the Ireland have run the gambit of historical ignorance, seemingly unaware that four centuries of religious warfare and eight centuries of colonialism have not vanished because of the Good Friday agreement.
I don’t feel it’s necessary that our wee island dominate the thoughts and policy decisions of politicians in the European Commission or British cabinet. I ask rather that when these governments make decisions that impact the lives of all of us on this island, they acknowledge our existence and our (small) importance. They don’t even need to read about Irish history; they just need to pick up the phone to those who do.