By John Bruton, former Irish Prime Minister (Taoiseach)
The fact that Dail Eireann voted yesterday to reject an EU Trade and Investment deal with Mercosur, that took 20 years to negotiate, and that few members could have read, shows that Irish politics is not immune to the Brexit disease that has infected British politics.
This disease consists in thinking that there is no need to make concessions in international relations and that, instead, one “can have it all”, without paying any price.
This delusion has led the UK into a deeply destructive position on Brexit.
I will not go into the details of the Mercosur trade deal here. Commissioner Phil Hogan dealt with these in an interview he gave to Sean O Rourke on RTE 1.
The Dail vote showed a poor understanding of the importance of trade agreements to the very existence of the EU.
The EU is not a military power. It is a commercial power. That commercial power is exercised through agreements through which the EU can promote its values, and can protect the commercial and strategic interests of its member states, including smaller ones like Ireland.
In recent times, the EU has made Agreements with Canada and Ukraine, and both had great difficulty being ratified, because one or two national parliaments took a similar line on them to the one taken on Mercosur by Dail Eireann yesterday.
If the EU cannot make and ratify Trade Agreements, it will gradually wither away, and member states will be forced to find other ways of protecting their national interests.
That might work for big states like France and Germany. But it will not work well for smaller states. The members of Dail Eireann should keep that in mind when they next come to consider the Mercosur deal.
Compliments of John Bruton