Peace in Northern Ireland and the Sausages of Wrath

12 June, 2021

Peace in Northern Ireland is in jeopardy because of the increasing contradictions between imperialism in Europe, not because of refrigerated sausages.
Peace in Northern Ireland is in jeopardy because of the increasing contradictions between imperialism in Europe, not because of refrigerated sausages.

The G7 summit kicked off in Cornwall with Biden warning the EU and Britain: “Don’t jeopardize peace in Northern Ireland”. Is he exaggerating? Not so much: the European Commission says it has “little patience” left with the British government and openly threatens a trade war. Meanwhile, the British services whip up the ultra unionist groups and use the media apparatus of the very US Democratic Party to sow discord between Dublin and Brussels.Welcome to the sausage wars“, a supposedly amusing name for an imperialist feud that may well claim lives this summer.

Table of Contents

The Sausage War

To uphold the 1998 Northern Ireland peace agreements, the Brexit deal instituted the border between the European market and Britain at the harbors.... de facto separating two British regions.
To uphold the 1998 Northern Ireland peace accords, the Brexit deal established the border between the European market and Great Britain at the docks… de facto separating two British regions.

The situation remains deadlocked over customs controls. The protocol signed between the EU and Britain as part of Brexit left Ulster as part of the European single market in order to avoid putting border controls in place and keep the letter of the 1998 Northern Ireland peace accords. In practice that meant putting customs at the ports and levying tariffs on trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

Thus, any trade between the island of Great Britain and Ulster became an export. And any disruption on account of Brussels trade rules, a provocation in which trade dispute easily became an omen or threat to peace in Northern Ireland.

That’s where the sausages come in. The EU does not allow imports of refrigerated meats. Until now, trade in sausages from England, Wales and Scotland to Ireland enjoyed a grace period during which the British government hoped to negotiate a derogation. But it has been unsuccessful vis-à-vis Brussels.

London’s response: unilaterally prolong the absence of controls — i.e., break the agreement. The Commission’s response: threaten retaliation to the point of suspending the entry of all British tariff-free products into the single market

.

But we’re talking about the island of Ireland. These are not purely commercial disputes. This friction comes after a slow ascent of imperialist tension between Britain, Ireland and the EU as a whole and adds incentive to the breakdown of peace in Northern Ireland.

British psychological warfare, U.S. pressure

Biden arrives in Britain to attend G7 summit in Cornwall. Peace in Northern Ireland at the top of the agenda.
Biden arrives in Britain to attend the G7 summit in Cornwall. Northern Irish peace high on the agenda.

As if the tension were not enough, the European edition of the “Politico” newspaper, part of the US Democratic Party’s media apparatus, published an explosive report: the EU was thinking, the article said, of closing trade with Britain by placing customs at continental ports. Ireland would effectively be cut out of the single market until a new deal with Britain was reached.

It was a hoax and its origin was not very dificult to guess, but it caused a real nervous breakdown among the Irish bourgeoisie who rushed to Brussels for explanations. EU spokesmen quickly and violently denied it, assuring that they would never let the former colonizer separate Ireland from the rest of Europe. The rancor and tension with Britain was rising by the hour. We have very thin patience left with Britain, declared Vice President Šefčovič.

The move doesn’t seem to have gone down well with Biden, either. Poisoning Politico, the Democrats’ quintessential intoxication tool in Europe, is a Johnson-stamped bit of humor that the Pennsylvanian could only take as an affront on the day of his arrival in Cornwall.

His response: put the issue at the forefront of the G7 and mobilize its entire trade and diplomatic apparatus to pressure Johnson… and Brussels. The message is clear: the U.S. doesn’t care about trade squabbles over sausages or the spirit of a bilateral treaty, but it doesn’t want a new open dirty war in Ireland and is ready to press the parties hard to reach an agreement, calling into question the trade deal with Britain or the thousand open issues – from tariffs to Nord Stream 2 via the Green Deal – with the continental powers.

His response: put the issue at the forefront of the G7 and mobilize its entire trade and diplomatic apparatus to pressure Johnson… and Brussels. The message is clear: the U.S. doesn’t care about trade squabbles over sausages or the spirit of a bilateral treaty, but it doesn’t want a new open dirty war in Ireland and is ready to press the parties hard to reach an agreement, calling into question the trade deal with Britain or the thousand open issues – from tariffs to Nord Stream 2 via the Green Deal – with the continental powers.

Bad prospects for peace in Northern Ireland

Unionist violence in Ulster this April. First serious sign of the precariousness of peace in Northern Ireland after Brexit.
Unionist violence in Ulster this April. First serious sign of the precariousness of peace in Northern Ireland after Brexit.

The sausage war is just the latest anecdote in an escalation of imperialist tension that is no fun at all. London has learned to use threats to peace in Northern Ireland as much as Dublin and unleashes paramilitaries in its threat of a return to street violence and bombings and then blames Brussels for the outbreaks of violence in Ulster. In Brussels, Paris or Berlin the tone is no sweeter either. France has long had a warlike tone demanding that Johnson do not play games with Northern Ireland’s peace.

The key: trade between Britain and the EU has shrunk so much in the past year (by 25% during the pandemic) that in European chancelleries they understand that it’s time to mark ground on London. Any trade retaliation, any escalation of tension would have less economic impact now than at any time before…or arguably any future time.

And the Irish bourgeoisie, reminiscing about how burning custom houses once worked and entranced by their historical fantasies about the use of terrorism to reunify the island under a single state, does nothing to help secure peace in a Northern Ireland with an increasingly dark future.