EU’s ‘spectacular blunder eroding trust’ after claim Ireland could abandon bloc

Brexit: EU is playing ‘hardball’ with Northern Ireland says Hoey

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The European Union’s threat to impose a vaccine border between Northern Ireland and the Republic has reignited one of Brexit’s most bitter disputes. At the end of January, the EU said it would be triggering an emergency provision in the Brexit deal to control COVID-19 vaccine exports, including the possible introduction of checks at the border of Ireland and Northern Ireland to prevent shipments entering the UK. The move was immediately met with fierce condemnation from London, Belfast, and Dublin and the EU performed a swift U-turn.

However, Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove has warned that the aborted decision to trigger Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol has opened a “Pandora’s Box” regarding post-Brexit arrangements.

He told MPs an urgent “reset” was needed to the Northern Ireland protocol governing checks on GB-NI trade.

Most importantly, though, Mr Gove described the move as “a moment when trust was eroded”.

In an exclusive interview with, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s trade adviser Shanker Singham also warned that despite the about-turn, the level of trust between Ireland and Brussels will never be the same.

Mr Singham explained: “It was a spectacular blunder. It is quite hard to imagine doing anything worse than this.

“And the speed, in which they said they can under certain circumstances put a border on the island without consulting anyone…

“Well, it has without a doubt affected their relationship with Ireland significantly.”

The trade expert added: “The Irish government must be highly suspicious of anything the EU is doing or saying now.

“Because if I were them, I wouldn’t think the EU has necessarily my best interests at heart.

“Obviously, the EU has 27 member states with their own interests… so the notion that they would privilege the Irish has never made much sense.

“But it has now made the Irish understand they are not a priority in respect to the EU.”

This sentiment could arguably lead to new speculation about a possible Irish EU exit.

Not too long ago, many believed the potentially negative effect of Brexit on the Irish economy could have sparked “Irexit”.

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After the 2016 EU referendum, Cliff Taylor of the Irish Times said that the question arose because Ireland’s participation in the single market is “vital” to the economy but also that Ireland’s interactions with the British economy is similarly “vital”.

Moreover, a 2017 report by Dublin-based Hibernia Forum said the Republic could have left the bloc as revenge for its treatment during the financial crisis.

Co-founder of the think tank Keith Redmond said the country had been “quarantined” and forced to take on “toxic banking debt”.

Mr Redmond, who at the time was a councillor on the Fingal County Council, told other factors, such as a growing loss of sovereignty, could have led to an Irish EU exit.

When asked whether euroscepticism was growing, he said: “For sure. There is definitely a support for stopping what seems to be an unstoppable march to EU integration, EU super state, whatever you want to call it.”

He said a growing distrust of Brussels was centred on three concerns: a lack of accountability from those in power, a loss of sovereignty in Ireland and the EU’s treatment of the country during the banking crisis.

Mr Redmond noted: “Ireland as an island was quarantined for the toxic banking debt of the EU. They basically shafted us.”


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He said leaving the EU was preferable to its inevitable chaotic collapse.

He said: “People were concerned in Ireland about the uncertainty that may follow [Brexit], the upheaval.

“That’s all true, but it is necessary upheaval.

“Otherwise we are faced ultimately with calamity, a total collapse. But we can make it a planned collapse.”

In September 2018, the Irish Freedom Party – also known as “Irexit Freedom to Prosper” – was formed to campaign for an Irish exit from the EU and to field candidates in the 2019 European Parliament election.

Its two candidates were party leader Hermann Kelly, who received 2,441 first preference votes (0.67 percent) in the Dublin constituency, and chairperson Professor Delores Cahill, who polled with 1.47 percent of first preference votes in the South constituency.

A Eurobarometer poll conducted across the EU in March 2019 showed that if a referendum on EU membership were held tomorrow, 83 percent of people in Ireland would vote to remain.

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