’Brexit' And Its Wider Significance For Ireland And Beyond

Sean Bresnahan of the Thomas Ashe Society Omagh gives his opinion on how ‘Brexit’ relates to Ireland, calling for a discussion on how a ‘New Ireland’ would relate to Europe and the wider international system.
‘Such is the power of globalisation that within our lifetime we are likely to see the integration, even if unevenly, of all national economies in the world into a single global, free market system’ – Jim Garrison
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With a potential ‘Brexit’ just weeks away, it raises the likelihood that should Britain leave the EU it will disrupt the normalisation of Ireland partitioned – which for those seeking constitutional change can only be a good thing. Personally, I want to see Britain vote to leave in the hope it shakes everything up but I’ll not be voting myself, as for me this is a matter for Britain and not ourselves. One thing for certain though, if I were British or even living in Britain I’d be looking out of the EU and voting accordingly come June 23rd.

That said, what republicans can do, and how they can put what is of course a live issue to good use from a republican perspective, is to develop a wider conversation around the EU and the whole notion of Irish sovereignty. For republicans, it’s worth considering whether Ireland reunified could ever be truly sovereign within the EU and, to that extent, what our attitude to Europe and the EU should be upon establishing the ‘New and All-Ireland Republic’ we hope one day to see.

We might also consider how the EU’s undemocratic practices impact on the right to self-determination, their empowering of transnational capital and its neoliberal agenda coming at the expense of public accountability, undermining notions that policy and power should be subject to the will of the people and their right to determine their own affairs. Those would be valuable discussions from a republican perspective and could help us imagine how a ‘New Republic’ in due course and time might appear.

Towards as much, republicans need to be conscious of how power works in the modern environment. For me, power is three dimensional or three-stranded, standing on the relationship between big corporations, international banking and political government – ‘institutions’ (for want of a better word) that interlock seamlessly and uphold what we might loosely describe as ‘the system’. We might even say that they ARE the system – or at least astride its colossal framework.

This system, whether consciously or by impulse, works to break down trade barriers to better facilitate free movement of capital for malign intent. These forces want to free themselves from democratic control and view the usurp of national sovereignty as important towards that end. For instance, at this moment under NAFTA the Canadian government has been forced to shell out millions of dollars to US corporations because Canadian environmental policy disrupts their potential capital flow and profit. Where is Canadian sovereignty here, can we credibly claim it exists?

The EU serves the same purpose and, with the current TTIP negotiations proceeding at pace, is set on lurching even further to the right at the expense of principles such as national sovereignty and self-determination, principles which remain important to ourselves. We need to begin the fight back but when most people are without even a basic understanding of the workings of imperialism – of its tripartite ‘alliance’ of government, high finance and Big Business – our task is made only the more difficult.

Debate and discussion, fostering increased awareness in both our own ranks and the wider community, are tools at hand to change that reality. And we must become better at such things. Indeed, the nature of power today and the imperative it be subject to far greater accountability demands it. To that extent, the Brexit referendum offers an opening we would best take advantage of. ‘Brexit’, with the tensions it reveals and the issues lying behind it, is of significance to us all and to the fight for a better world – the one we hope to live in.


  1. Sean

    The opening sentence in that is to my mind correct. The EU is all about expanding the market for business interests. It has nothing to do with a better quality of life for ordinary people. Business people like the UK Tories who sold the family silver for personal gain a long time ago and who have destroyed UK manufacturing in favour of criminal financial interests in the square mile and a shamees bonus for failure culture care not a jot for you nor I. They are delighted to have us squabble over minimum wage (or less) jobs with E. Europeans Africans and whoever. It benefits their business. So, immigration doesn't upset Cameron and Co. They are not actually patriotic. The clue is in their foreign policy objectives.... 'protecting our INTERESTS'. I agree with you a BREXIT would be great. It would be a start to stopping the rot that is the EU. Where I differ is in your assertion it is nothing to do with you and you wont vote to make it happen. I'm sorry to say Sean I cannot comment further coz that is where I stopped reading.

  2. They will never let Britain leave the EU, too much money is at stake. Even in the event of a Leave vote, they will just make adjustments and ask the question again. Ive not even bothered to register for the vote.