A book review by guest author Ray Bassett.
This is a thought-provoking publication and an interesting contribution to political debate in post Brexit Britain. The four authors are all left-wing supporters of Brexit, and their central theme is that leaving the European Union was only a first, if necessary, step towards the rebuilding of a vibrant nation State. They argue for a radical overhaul to reassert national sovereignty and greater democratic control.
The main interest in the book from an Irish perspective is their support for Irish re-unification, which is very much at odds with the majority of other leading Brexiteers. The authors point out that the British State lacks the ability to fully exercise political sovereignty over the North. This is identified as having the potential to neutralize Brexit, as the more Britain seeks to divulge from the EU, the more friction will be created between Northern Ireland and Britain. The Good Friday Agreement has for the last 25 years ensured that the UK cannot act unilaterally over the North. This has been endorsed by referenda in both Northern Ireland and the Republic.
To consolidate the British State, it would be best to do so within the boundaries of the island of Britain.
The authors point out that the lack of British legitimacy in Northern Ireland has historical roots. The border was gerrymandered to ensure a permanent pro-British majority. Power was devolved to a group of Unionist Supremacists. The Stormont regime operated systematic discrimination against Catholics to maintain the loyalty of impoverished Protestants and backed up its authority with the use of emergency legislation. The authors further point out that no mainstream British political party has any real level of support in the North.
In the circumstances, their view is that it would be best for Britons to convince a majority in Northern Ireland that their future lies in a United Ireland so that the border poll, when it comes, delivers a decisive vote for re-unification and in doing so strengthens the sovereignty of both States.
The authors also call for a series of other measures to reinvigorate political life in Britain including; withdrawal from NATO; ending corporate donations to political parties; scrapping devolution in Scotland and Wales; introduction of Proportional Representation; abolition of the House of Lords; allowing the political recall of MPs if they depart from their mandates; increase in the size of the House of Commons to establish a better local link with MPs; and repeal all laws limiting political expression.
Ray Bassett is ex-Irish Ambassador to Canada, Jamaica and Bahamas, and author of Ireland and the EU Post Brexit and The Phoenix Park Way: Walking the Walls of the Phoenix Park.
Taking Control: Sovereignty and Democracy After Brexit was published by Polity Press, Cambridge in 2023 and features contributions from:
– Philip Cunliffe, Associate Professor in International Relations at University College London
– George Hoare, Independent Researcher and cohost of the Bungacast podcast
– Lee Jones, Professor of Political Economy and International Relations at Queen Mary University of London
– Peter Ramsay, Professor of Law at the London School of Economics
Purchase it from Amazon.