The UK and the EU are caught up in trade talks at the moment, in a desperate attempt to finalise a deal before the December 31 deadline. As the bloc still tries to come to terms with losing one of its greatest players, European figureheads in Italy and France have feared that their electorates could turn against the EU too. Ireland has sided with the EU throughout most of the Brexit negotiations, keen to increase its hand within the bloc after the UK’s exit — but an Irish commentator recently warned that the Emerald Isle could also follow suit.
Ruadhan Mac Cormaic wrote an opinion piece in The Irish Times in February which claimed that Ireland needs to learn from the defeat of British Remainers.
His comment appears surprising after Ireland’s support for the bloc has increased in the wake of Brexit.
For instance, both Sinn Fein and the Green Party have shown their support for the EU in recent months, despite previously opposing the bloc.
Indeed, as Mr Mac Cormaic pointed out: “The EU is widely associated with some of the best things that have happened in Ireland over the past two generations: the peace process, laws on women’s rights and social protection, the foreign direct investment strategy and new opportunities for trade and travel and study.”
Ireland also received more money from the EU than it put in until recent years.
However, he suggested the Remainers lost in the UK because “they spent too little time making a positive case for the EU” — something which could easily happen for Europhiles in Ireland.
Mr Mac Cormaic continued: “When they did make the case, it was largely an economic, pragmatic one — and a negative one, which stressed the monetary costs of disengagement.
“The Leave argument was an emotional one.”
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He also added: “We know that Irish voters have twice rejected European treaties.”
Ireland rejected the Lisbon Treaty in 2008, a reform bill which aimed to provide the bloc with more centralised leadership.
At a time when no other EU member state held a referendum on the ratification of the treaty, Ireland stood in the legislation’s way until a number of concessions saw the nation vote in favour of Lisbon in 2009.
Ireland also rejected the Nice Treaty, which was supposed to pave the way for EU enlargement, in a 2001 referendum, fearing it would marginalise small states.
Yet, the nation ended up supporting the treaty the next year in a second vote, after the EU gave the country several assurances; for example, it would not have to join a common defence policy.
The commentator added that the motives which pushed the Leave vote to victory are also “problems that Ireland shares” in terms of social and regional inequalities.
Additionally, any time a treaty means there would be a transfer of sovereignty to the EU — which would amend Ireland’s constitution — the Irish government has to call a public vote.
Mr Mac Cormaic explained that this gives Eurosceptics a chance “to raise their profile and build support for their cause” every few years.
He concluded: “The point is the danger of complacency.”