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This Will be Theresa May's Appalling Legacy
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A German general once explained that he divided officers looking for promotion into four categories: the clever and lazy, the clever and industrious, the stupid and lazy and the stupid and industrious.

He said that the clever and lazy should be appointed to senior leadership positions because they could take important decisions without trying to interfere with the work of others. The clever and industrious should be made their deputies. The stupid and lazy should be sent to the front line, but the stupid and industrious should be pushed out of the army immediately of at once because they are a danger to everyone.

Theresa May surely belongs to the fourth category of leader, because as prime minister she has shown that she has a lethal blend of tunnel vision and obstinacy that automatically produces ill-judged decisions.

Her list of blunders is too long to repeat here but must include her decision to treat the outcome of the EU referendum as if it was a decisive choice by the British people. The near dead heat should have meant that the wishes of both sides would need to be accommodated to stop existing divisions widening.

Instead, May acted like a British First World War commander at the Somme, pushing ahead regardless of actual circumstances. She triggered Article 50, taking the UK out of the EU without a plan; acted as if she had a parliamentary majority and had no need to compromise with the opposition; approached negotiations with the EU as if the balance of power lay in her favour and not in theirs; and she tried to bluff Brussels with the prospect of a no-deal Brexit far more damaging to Britain than the EU.

But the most poisonous part of her legacy is her feckless gutting of the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) of 1998, which ended 30 years of savage violence in Northern Ireland.

This was probably the greatest achievement of the British state for half a century, bringing to an end the Irish conflict, a running sore in English politics since the Tudors, through a compromise that everybody could live with. But, with May in charge, it has been a compromise that has shrivelled by the day.

Essential building blocks of the agreement, such as British government neutrality between nationalists and unionists in the North, were discarded because of the need for DUP votes in parliament. So too was cooperation with the Irish government to ensure the GFA was kept in working order.

Proponents of Brexit are strikingly parochial despite their boasted ambitions for global Britain, once it is freed from EU shackles. They were wilfully ignorant of Irish politics, fondly imagining that the nationalist population in border areas would tolerate cameras and electronic devices used to monitor the border where it cuts through their fields and villages. If customs are sent they will need police to protect them and the police in turn will need the army. We will be back to a militarised frontier.

A puerile suggestion is that the border be left to its own devices, forgetting that the EU is not going to tolerate a gaping hole in the tariff and regulatory walls protecting the customs union and the single market.

Why not tell the EU to just get lost, as many Leavers will argue? Because they will not “get lost”, and they are more powerful than we are with 47 per cent of British exports going to the EU and 15 per cent of EU exports coming to Britain.

For the DUP, the collapse of the GFA has no terrors because they voted against it and, whatever they may say publicly, they would like to see it stripped of any substance even if it still has a formal existence.

May either did not understand this or did not care, because she was fixated on her own unpassable Brexit deal that was voted down for the third time on Friday afternoon.

Right up to the end, she was trying to play what used to be called “the Orange card” as she struggled to persuade Tory Brexiteers to support her. Her meeting with them at her country residence Chequers last Sunday throws a bizarre light on what she thinks is happening in Ireland.

Press reports say that she spoke passionately about an enhanced threat of a united Ireland by claiming that the liberalisation of Ireland’s laws on homosexuality and abortion had made opinion in Northern Ireland more sympathetic towards union with the Republic. She pointed out that Sinn Fein is demanding a border poll and might win it because of the Republic ending its ban on abortion following a referendum last year – unlike the North, where it is still forbidden.

May went on to say that Northern Ireland leaving the union might have a knock-on effect on Scotland, where people “would demand the right to leave the UK and then the union would be destroyed”.

May is right in saying that Sinn Fein, which won more than two-thirds of the nationalist vote in the North during the last two elections, has been campaigning for a border poll since the Brexit referendum vote. It is also true to say that a few more voters who previously saw Irish unification as unity with a priest-ridden regressive state might change their minds.

But far more important in enhancing the prospect of a united Ireland is the UK leaving the EU which is contrary to the referendum result in the North where Remain won by 56 per cent to 44 per cent – something usually ignored in British media reports on the DUP.


Most important, support for Irish unity no longer looks like a retreat from the modern world into the Celtic twilight, joining a small weak regressive Irish nation state in preference to remaining in a powerful socially progressive Britain. Unification with the Republic now means reunification with the EU. Keep in mind that, while 88 per cent of nationalists voted Remain, the unionist vote was much more split, with better-educated middle-class unionists voting not to leave the EU.

It is important to draw the right conclusions from this. It does not mean that the unification of Ireland is close. Most Northern Irish Protestants remain adamantly against it. Plenty of Catholics still do not want it even if they are fewer in number than before. Many note the lamentable state of the Irish health service compared to the NHS. The Irish government does not want a referendum which would probably confirm the union and would certainly be highly divisive.

Nationalists and unionists in Northern Ireland tend to underestimate the toughness of the other side. The unionists did so in the past by trying and failing to impose their own exclusive rule, but the bulk of them are certainly not going to accept Irish reunification without a fight whatever the outcome of a poll.

What May and Brexit have succeeded in doing is putting issues like the Irish border and partition back on the agenda. The GFA compromise is all but dead.

Ireland has traditionally been Britain’s worst political ulcer and it has started bleeding again. The German general was right about the dangers of stupid but industrious leaders.

(Republished from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Brexit, Britain, Theresa May 
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  1. England will eventually leave the EU… but, only because an evil within the EU cannot be shared with a GOD-FEARING Nation. But, until such an evil arises, its premature departure leaves those who could be served by England, at the mercy of ignoble and ruthless souls. And so, her departure mustn’t be for mere gain, and selfish ends!… but, for a noble course its wisest are pursuing for themselves, and for a willing European family of coparticipants!
    Please!… no emails!

  2. TG says:

    Interesting thoughts. But as far as May being ‘stupid,’ yes maybe, but perhaps not…

    It looks to me more like May is deliberately ‘taking a dive,’ to discredit the entire idea of the UK leaving the EU, to sabotage it, to make it appear more and more like only insane people would want independence from the pharaonic state that is the EU (which looks more and more like the old Soviet Union, but without even the pretense of caring about the average worker). I mean, why not have used the last few years to plan for a hard Brexit, to at least use as a bargaining chip? What sort of leverage do you have, when you admit to the entity you are negotiating with that you have no alternatives at all?

    OK maybe I’m wrong. Maybe May really is just that stupid. But here’s a prediction: Britain stays in the EU under EU terms, and the Brits opposed to the EU are so demoralized that the possibility never comes up again. And, very quietly, May retires and is showered with consulting jobs etc. by the big banks and becomes fabulously wealthy. Which wouldn’t happen if she really just was stupid.

    There is an old saying in diplomacy to never assume stupidity when malice suffices as an explanation. To which we must add: never assume stupidity, when the allegedly ‘stupid’ behavior is making the right people a whole lot of money.

  3. “… forgetting that the EU is not going to tolerate a gaping hole in the tariff and regulatory walls protecting the customs union and the single market.”

    So let the EU police the border; it will be interesting to see what they or the RoI will do about matters when the bombs start going off in Dublin and Brussels.

    “Why not tell the EU to just get lost, as many Leavers will argue? Because they will not “get lost”, and they are more powerful than we are with 47 per cent of British exports going to the EU and 15 per cent of EU exports coming to Britain.”

    That is a junk-statistic: The rest of the EU economy is much larger than the UK. In relative terms, a hard Brexit would hit the EU harder than the UK … Europe has more to lose from brinksmanship.

    “Many note the lamentable state of the Irish health service compared to the NHS.”

    Another ringing endorsement for remaining in the EU, eh? Race to the bottom, vs. Race of Doom?

    “Ireland has traditionally been Britain’s worst political ulcer and it has started bleeding again.”

    You think after nearly 900 years the English would learn and leave Ireland to the Irish.

    If the English had any sense, the Westminster Parliament would repeal the various Acts of Union, raise the Cross of Saint George over Westminster Palace, and do an Exit, leaving an empty husk of remain-desiring UK constituent nations, e.g. Scotland, in the EU, in which they profess they wish to remain.

  4. Thought this was a load of disingenuous tripe…then I noticed it was published in the Independent – first impression confirmed.

    47% of UK exports go to EU because…it is in the EU and can’t trade with the rest of the world on its own terms – disingenuous is way too polite a term for that factoid.

    Northern Ireland is a client state propped up by English money – small wonder its “better-educated middle class,” i.e. those sucking on the public teat of English tax dollars, voted to remain.

    Europe has been sucking the life out of the English for 45 years, and it’s the EU that has the better bargaining position?

    May tried to drive a hard bargain with the EU?

    What a load of Marxist bollocks.

    • Replies: @Philip Owen
  5. Kurt v. Hammerstein-Equord is the general’s name, sir.

  6. Anonymous [AKA "Joe X"] says:

    Boring Paddy employed by a Saudi.

  7. [May’s] list of blunders is too long to repeat here but must include her decision to treat the outcome of the EU referendum as if it was a decisive choice by the British people

    Suppose that the 2016 referendum had been about joining the EU and it had been carried by the same margin. <irony>As your logic is famously rigorous</irony>, you would doubtless argue that the result was not decisive and that it would be a blunder to act on it.

  8. n230099 says:

    “If customs are sent they will need police to protect them and the police in turn will need the army. We will be back to a militarised frontier.”

    So, what’s the downside?

    • Replies: @(((They))) Live
  9. SteveK9 says:

    Another ‘remainer’ who won’t accept that he lost. May is also a remainer who tried to sabotage Brexit, and failed.

  10. @n230099

    I doubt many people in the UK want to see the IRA back in business

  11. Loved the first 2 paragraphs of your screed. The rest? Total lunacy.

    You have placed yourself in the stupid and industrious catagory. Ane we know what that means for you.

  12. He’s just reworking the same piece every couple of weeks!

    • Replies: @anon
  13. anon[804] • Disclaimer says:
    @Henry's Cat

    He’s just reworking the same piece every couple of weeks!

    i had to check the date because when he was complaining about Ireland i thought i had already read this article a week ago

  14. tyrell says:

    A bottom line as always. Stage 1 EU leave or stay. Stage 2. Soft brexit (Norway plus) or hard brexit (WTO). The vote to leave is settled. There needs to be another referendum. Let the people decide which type of brexit. The problem is the hard brexiteers in parlament do not have the courage of their convictions. They vote down every proposal hoping it will trigger a hard brexit without coming out and explaining why it is the best option. There will be a general election before this is settled. Whichevever party runs with norway plus will win. Norway plus means no backstop.

    • Agree: Philip Owen
    • Replies: @Philip Owen
  15. I just returned from visit to Eire. I did not get up to the northern counties. After traveling and learning more about the history of English depradation in Ireland, it is a mystery to me that the Irish did not slit every English throat they could get their hands around, and continue the practice to this day.

    The Hell with Ms.May. She is a stupid chump in the employ of globalists who don’t give a tinkers damn about England, Ireland, or anything but their own narrow economic interests. All these miscreants deserve each other, an soon are all the company any of them will have.

    We still have a bit of a chance here in the States. Not much, but… The UK and EU are screwed beyond redemption. The smart money will just avoid the pending debris field. To Hell with all of them.

  16. Anonymous [AKA "DeValera"] says:

    Republican Sinn Féin has opposed full membership of the EU from the outset


    “We recognise the danger of the growing European Union becoming a world superpower in its own right. As it grows stronger it will assert itself and become involved in what Jack Deleors described as the “resource wars” of the 21st Century. We do not believe that Ireland, with its history of being a colonial possession, should involve itself in the oppression of other nations that the growing EU will eventually mean. There is also the danger that, instead of finally winning its freedom and independence, Ireland will find itself swapping British domination for European domination.

    Republican Sinn Féin has opposed full membership of the EU from the outset as a highly centralised political and economic power-bloc where decisions about our lives are taken in completely undemocratic institutions. Our struggle has been to manage our own affairs and our programme is for maximum power at the base. That is real democracy and the very opposite of EU imperialism.”

  17. Anon[274] • Disclaimer says:


    Israel wants the UK to stay in the European Union.

    “The EU has underwritten Israel’s economic success.”

    “It has violated its own constitution to give Israel special trading status and thereby turned Europe into Israel’s largest export market.”

    Israel deeply disturbed by Brexit –

    “There are only two political and economic blocs in the world that Israel will listen to: the United States and the EU.”

    “Geller claims that he made Theresa May Prime Minister and claims that he is going to make Theresa May call a second referendum on Brexit.”

  18. Tom Verso says:

    In this and a previous post (3/20/19) Mr. Cockburn is very negative about the future of Ireland as a result of the current politics of Brexit.

    For a VERY different and profoundly more optimistic take on the future of Ireland resulting from Brexit listen to Webzine “The Duran” Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris. He is a very intelligent and highly informed ‘Brit’ who thinks that Brexit in the terms currently debated will lead to in the not very distant future a unification of North Ireland with the Republic of (Southern) Ireland. (at 1 hour on the tape)

    Also, let me say on a parenthetical note: The media commentators and pro Brexit politicians (e.g. Nigel Farage) keep beating the drum “The PEOPLE” of Britain have voted for Brexit and Democracy is being denied by anti-Brexit ‘conspirators’. Nowhere is it mentioned that 52% of The People voted for Brexit and the effort of the 48% (i.e. 16 million to include the majority of Scotland and N. Ireland) who do not what to leave hardly constitutes a conspiracy. It is the legitimate democratic right of the 48% to pursue their objective in the Parliamentary process.

    There is in political philosophy a distinction between Democracy (majority rules) and a representative parliamentary (congressional) Republic, where the rights of the minority are not superseded by a ‘tyranny of the majority’.

    This issue, which was resolved by American Constitutional writers (1789), is now being revisited by calls to eliminate the Electoral College, which was created to deny high populations centers (e.g. New York, today’s California, etc.) total dominance of the Presidency (tyranny of majority).

  19. CanSpeccy says: • Website

    The idea that there should be compromise on Brexit, the so-called soft-Brexit option, is daft. Either you have a sovereign nation or you do not. As long as you are in the embrace of the EU, however loose the embrace, you are not sovereign.

    The issue of the Irish border is also largely irrelevant. It would be sad if Brexit led to further troubles in Ireland, but in the long term, the demographic trend spells unification — that is unless the Catholics go overboard on abortion and contraception and manage to underbreed ever the near sterile prods. Either way, the Irish are in the grip of the genocidal native-abortionists and immigrationists. In the long-run, Ireland will be populated by mainly by Muslim Africans and Asians.

    Once out of the life-destroying grip of the EU, the challenges for Britain are how to restore the land and culture to the British people and to restore the system of education and the industrial base to something like their former glory. An additional challenge will be to avoid avoid falling from the clutches of the fascistic EU into the arms of the globalist US of A.

    A policy that would engage the imagination of the mass of the people of the British Isles is for Britain to become truly independent, i.e., neutral, but a friend of all the world.

    Britain is a small, vastly overcrowded and relative poor country that no one in their right mind would want to invade, provided only that Britain was no longer a military threat garrisoned by nuclear-armed US forces. With a Swiss style militia, plus a truly independent nuclear deterrent (until a global denuclearization process has been established) Britain would have great national security at reasonable cost.

    Restoring the British people to their own land and culture means ending significant immigration and a program of voluntary alien ethnic repatriation by means of (a) economic incentives, and (b) firm suppression of alien ideologies and customs from dress to religion.

    Thus transformed, one could expect to see a united Ireland joined with the other peoples of the British archipelago, in a highly devolved federation of nations, English, Irish, Welsh and Scotch, the latter probably divided into several subgroups: Highlands, Lowlands, The Western Isles, the Orkneys and Shetlands.

    Yes, Thereason May is a hyperactive dumbass, under the malign influence of the Money Power, illustrating the corrupt state to which parliamentary government has fallen. Instead of MP’s representing the people in Parliament, the domination of the parties by central offices means that MP’s represent the Parties to the people. Thus, whereas most Tory MP’s were elected by pro-Brexit constituencies, most are against Brexit. Hence their absurd parliamentary performance, attempting to look like Brexiteers while like their ridiculous leader, attempting to scotch it.

    • Replies: @dfordoom
  20. Anon[205] • Disclaimer says:

    Good Friday Agreement (GFA) of 1998, which ended 30 years of savage violence

    FYI: Obituary: Rafi Eitan

    ”In the 1960s, Eitan helped steal uranium from the Nuclear Materials & Equipment Corporation (NUMEC) in Pennsylvania. In the 1980s, Eitan played a role in the smuggling of nuclear triggers out of the United States.

    In the same decade Eitan and Mossad units assisted the U.K. government in its onslaught against Irish self-determination, culminating in the murder of members of the Irish Republican Army. This operation reflects a long-standing Israeli policy: doing the dirty work of Western intelligence agencies in exchange for political support of Israeli brutality against Arab countries.

    Eitan’s primary focus in the 1980s was a man named Jonathan Pollard…”

  21. Sean says:

    The citizens of the foreign country called Eire or the Irish Republic must be stripped of their anomalous right to walk into Britain claim benefits and vote. Maybe then they will finally realize the UK is not their country and Britain does not feel under any obligation to them. It is a long overdue realisation on their part.

  22. dfordoom says: • Website

    With a Swiss style militia, plus a truly independent nuclear deterrent (until a global denuclearization process has been established) Britain would have great national security at reasonable cost.

    If you look at a map it is obvious that Britain has no need of an army. The British Army was only ever useful for indulging in foreign military adventures and for policing the Empire. Britain always relied on the Navy for its defence. Do you think a Swiss-style militia navy would work?

    and (b) firm suppression of alien ideologies and customs from dress to religion.

    You would suppress all alien religions? That would of course include Judaism?

    And dress? You’re proposing a dress code for the entire nation? All foreign dress would be banned? And customs? You’d need an even more intrusive police state than you already have?

    But of course you don’t mean that. You mean banning Islam. You’d be OK with ending freedom of religion? You’d need a major police apparatus to do that. You could call it the British Inquisition.

  23. Sean says:

    Perhaps I was a little brutal with my previous comment, but countries (including the Republic of Ireland) do not exist because people think wars are the worst thing that can happen. Pretending there were not two countries with a border between them was enabled by the EU membership of both, which is no longer going to be the case.

    Talking about “partition” has absolutely nothing to do with the EU, it is the logic of the Irish Constitutional claim to Northern Ireland, and we know the stalemate it takes us to. It will end up in far more that some easilly circumvented customs posts. Failure to have a very tight border was a huge security mistake, one that will not be repeated if there is a new round of the Troubles.

    • Replies: @Seamusmocnahoople
  24. In 1922, the Conservatives unexpectedly won a by-election in Newport. They were in a coalition with LLoyd George’s Liberals. 9 hours later the Tory backbenchers formed what became known as the 1922 Committee and demanded the end of the coalition. This was the birth of the modern Conservative party.

    It could well be that the results of today’s Newport by-election tonight reshape the Tory party once again. If UKIP does well, Brexit is still alive. If UKIP does not come at least third, Brexit is dead.

    UKIP have their best remaining leader standing as the candidate. Neil Hamilton is a well known politician in the UK and lately in Wales. As leader of UKIP in the Welsh Assembly he was always more constructive than the Torry leader. If he can’t make a good showing, UKIP is not going to have a breakthrough They might get one seat, Thurrock, in a general election.

  25. @Maple Curtain

    Idiot knows nothing about trade.

  26. @tyrell

    It doesn’t have to be done at once. The ERG are shooting themselves in the foot. It’s too late to backtrack.

  27. The Cameron government detailed three options for Leave to be decided upon after we left. They were described by country names.

    Norway (EEA)
    Switzerland (a bespoke deal with continuous renegotiation)
    Canada (a Free Trade Deal)

    All three papers discussed these. One paper mentioned the WTO. Yet according to hard liners this is the only option people could have possibly voted for. Newport will tell us. If Tory+UKIP is less than 35% Brexit is dead. Only a few minutes to go to the result.

  28. anonymous[190] • Disclaimer says:

    “as if it was a decisive choice by the British people”

    Only democratic outcomes for what a cockburn desires are valid. LOL

  29. Totally agree, all Irish back to Ireland and all British go back to Britain. As soon as we have a 32 country republic , Ireland will finally be free of perfidious Albion. But it’s strange how the British are so desperate to keep links to Ireland , we don’t give a shit about them but they still occupy the north east of Ireland and treat people from the other parts not under British occupation as full citizens haha. We can shit all over them but they keep crawling back desperate to be friends. Why is that ? It isn’t because there’s massive wealth lying off the west coast of Ireland ? The British think we can’t survive without them, well fuck off then haha , sorry got to go, hello is this Germany calling.

  30. @Sean

    Talking through your ass, there will be no hard border. The British border in Ireland will soon disappear.

    • Replies: @Sean
  31. Sean says:

    The British border in Ireland will soon disappear

    Quite possibly, but a majority of voters in Northern Ireland for reunification not exist yet. Before 1999, articles 2 and 3 of the Irish constitution made the claim that the whole island formed one “national territory”. If the Republic of (Southern) Ireland goes back to claiming northern Ireland as part of it then there there will be (quite coincidentally I’m sure) an IRA campaign, nd this new IRA offensive will be organised from the South of course.

    If they don’t want a hard border then they should make sure that there are no IRA cross border attacks. The Kileen watchtower and permanent checkpoint on the main Belfast to Dublin road was not put up until 1988. No record was being kept over who was crossing the border until the 8os. That delay of years was a mistake, a mistake that will not be repeated.

  32. Yawnnnnnn, time running out. Brits won’t be putting up any military installations.

    • Replies: @Sean
  33. Sean says:

    They won’t …. unless Cockburn is correct and there are mass demonstrations leading to violence and an IRA campaign. A recrudescence of violence organized from the South is hardly going to convince the Unionists that the South is a changed state. And the Republic could kiss its now substantial tourism earnings (my parents are going to visit Ireland north and south soon) goodbye. There is not going to be another decade of dozens of soldiers killed in Crossmaglen before they twig of the needs for fortified watchtowers and propers checks of who and what is crossing the border, rely on it . My feeling is the local Catholics both sides will immediately begin to make useful extra money from smuggling if there are customs posts. But with Troubles that would quickly end in border security and high tech surveillance being too tight. Building the security is going to mean profits, but not for Catholics.

    • Replies: @Seamusmocnahoople
  34. @Sean

    Your feeling … YAAWWWNNNN, I live on the British border….. The Brits will be bankrupted if they start the troubles again… We are closing in on victory , only a few more years to go. If you think the Irish nation is worried about losing a few tourists for final victory, hahaha …you are so funny.

  35. Quote: “But the most poisonous part of her legacy is her feckless gutting of the Good Friday Agreement”

    Correction: She used the Good Friday Agreement to trash Brexit.

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