I like the Brits. I have many British friends, I enjoy visiting the UK, I watch British TV and read British papers and magazines. Britain stands for a lot of good things. But reading this comment track from Tory website Conservative Home, you really have to wonder. How can a country that occupied us relatively recently know so little about us?
So let me clarify a few things for my British readers:
1. There is no desire in Ireland to rejoin the UK or sterling. You may hear the odd remark from the odd eccentric, but it is about as likely as Britain joining the Euro in the next 12 months.
2. Contrary to the coverage in some elements of the British media, Ireland is actually a functioning country with a functioning economy. We’ve a budget deficit, not a civil war. Nor are we’re the only country with hard left rioters. Ask the tenants of Millbank.
3. The Euro is not the source of our problems. Our exports continue to perform strongly. Please stop trying to project your Euro neurosis onto us. The Euro has flaws, but it is still where we need to be. We need to be competitive by cutting our costs, which we are doing, not by some Harold Wilson style three card trick.
4. Despite this crisis, our standard of living is still far higher than it was outside the EEC, and comparable to Britain. Bear in mind that one of the major rows we are having is about bringing the state pension, minimum wage and Jobseeker’s Benefit level DOWN to the British level, and bringing our tax levels UP to yours.
5. Our relationship with the rest of the EU is different from Britain’s relationship with them. Like them, we have known military occupation and brutal suppression by a hostile enemy power, and so understand that mutual cooperation is not a sign of weakness.
6. And by the way: About Irish people travelling to the UK looking for work, don’t forget who the single biggest minority group is in Ireland. That’s right: Brits. It cuts both ways.
And finally: Today’s editorial in The Irish Times is the most succinct description of our situation I’ve yet seen.