Brexit is “a historic mistake” and the costs of the leaving the European Union will be “substantial” and “very unpalatable”, said Former Prime Minister Sir John Major last week. “Come off it sunshine!” was Boris Johnson’s reply.
“It’s most important, as we set out on this journey, to be positive about the outcome,” said Britain’s mop-haired Foreign Secretary. The UK has a “fantastic future” outside the EU, Johnson argued, telling Major to stop “moaning and droning”.
“The family ties and bonds of affection that unite our two countries mean there will always be a special relationship between us,” declared Theresa May.
The British Prime Minister could have been talking about America, during this weekend’s trip to Washington, the first foreign leader to visit President Trump.
But she was actually referring to the Republic of Ireland – words so warm as to be, until relatively recently, unthinkable from a Conservative party leader.
What’s the fastest growing economy in the European Union? Could it be the UK? Or maybe the star performer is Poland, Bulgaria or one of those other East European upstarts?
Actually, by a long chalk, the fastest-growing EU economy is the Republic of Ireland. Seen as a basket case just a few years ago, Ireland has now achieved not only a stellar recovery but also a deep fiscal retrenchment.
“Fair play with the ‘plastic Paddy’ shtick, Liam, but you’re still talking out of your hole.” So shouted a heckler at the Kilkenomics Festival – his words directed at me.
Up on stage in the Marble City’s bijoux Set Theatre, I was on a panel discussing the possible implications of ‘Brexit’ for Ireland, the sell-out event combining economics with riotous comedy. The show-cased ‘experts’ were dealing with a technical, highly emotive subject: just how will Ireland fare if its biggest trading partner votes to quit the European Union?