LUC visits Irish Embassy during Brexit - preparations
At the time of writing, the UK has just acquired an extension for their departure from the European Union. However, this had not been the case when LUC’s ‘Regional Trends: The EU and its Neighbourhood’ class visited the Irish Embassy on Wednesday 20th March; at this point, everyone was preparing for an imminent British departure, including the Irish.
A Week is a Long Time in Politics
Therefore, just as the Irish Ambassador to the Netherlands, Kevin Kelly, pointed out at the beginning of our informal meeting, the conversation we were about to have would most probably be completely different than it would have been a week ago or could have been in another week’s time. A week really is a long time in politics.
For a class about European Union foreign policy, it was interesting to discuss Anglo-Irish and Anglo-EU relations as these topics are rapidly moving from the EU’s domestic realm to its foreign policy. We were welcomed to the Embassy with tea and coffee by Mr. Kelly and Second Secretary, Niamh Moore, who had previously worked in Ireland’s Brexit department, making an expert panel for us to talk to. Our visit began with a video about the tensions caused by Brexit in Ireland’s ‘borderlands,’ explained through the eyes of the region’s residents themselves. (see here: https://decorrespondent.nl/8082/hoe-de-brexit-een-getraumatiseerde-gemeenschap-weer-verdeelt/455711652-c81d0d64 )
This was the basis of our discussion as we focused on Ireland’s priority in protecting the terms of the Good Friday Agreement which ended the fighting, but not the social tensions, around the UK’s border with Ireland. A border which would also soon be their only land border with the EU. This also led to a discussion of Ireland’s priority in carefully balancing their multilateral commitment to the EU with their historically important bilateral relations with the UK. I think we agreed that Ireland seemed very solution-orientated and future-minded in their discourse about dealing with the consequences of the UK’s decision to leave the EU.
An EU without the UK
We realised at the end of our visit that the EU’s policies had been discussed in terms of the EU-27, which was a pertinent reminder of the reality that everyone, not just the British, was coming to terms with and preparing for an EU without the UK. The whole group of students, as Dr Beatrix Futak-Campbell the course convener are grateful to the Irish Embassy for hosting us and taking the time to give practical insight into our topics of study.