Relations between Britain and Ireland certainly have deteriorated over Brexit – and in particular over the headache of the border. The Republic of Ireland is overwhelmingly pro-European and has made it clear that in any disagreement it will side with the EU against the UK.
There’s a certain historical resonance about Ireland being pro-continental and anti-British. All through the centuries, Catholic Ireland looked to Spain, Rome and France for deliverance from domination by Protestant England.
The Spanish Armada and Napoleon both had plans to align Ireland with the continental powers, but as Bonaparte reflected ruefully, the Royal Navy always proved an unsurmountable obstacle.
So the present Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, is following in the footsteps of Irishmen over the centuries by telling Theresa May that his first concerns are for the EU 27, not Britain.
Everyday practicalities, however, aren’t that simple. Apart from the border with Northern Ireland, there’s the question of trade between Ireland and the United Kingdom, which is enormous. For Irish farmers, the UK is still a hugely important market.
There are also major cultural and familial links. It’s reckoned that a quarter of Britons have an Irish parent or grandparent. Manchester, Liverpool, Tyneside and Glasgow are embedded with Irish connections that cannot be matched by Prague, Munich, Copenhagen or Amsterdam. The post-Reformation Catholic Church in Britain was largely built up by Irish congregations.
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