The blurb for Tony Connolly Brexit & Ireland promises the inside story of the Irish response to the outcome of the UK’s 2016 referendum on EU membership.
Connolly, Europe editor for Ireland’s public broadcaster RTE, kicks off with a description of events on the night of 23 June 2016. Drinks flow in a Brussels bar where UK officials await the referendum result. EU officials watching the results on Sky TV. Irish officials prepare to convene at Government buildings at 3 am. Farmers go to bed expecting ‘remain’ to prevail.
But ‘leave’ won and Connolly’s book describes what has happened since that night. It’s a highly readable and absorbing account covering developments up to autumn 2017.
Connolly is strong on the interactions between Irish politicians and civil servants and their European and British counterparts. While many of the key events described are familiar from Brexit news coverage, Connolly’s behind the scenes insights and commentary are fascinating.
Bringing Brexit to life
As well as covering politics and policy, Connolly brings Brexit to life by talking to business owners. There is a mushroom business owner nervously watching sterling on the night of June 23. There are farmers heading for bed thinking that ‘remain’ will prevail and waking to find ‘leave’ has won. Connolly looks in detail at dairy and beef farmers, a fishing business and various entrepreneurs. He outlines their reliance on the UK market and describes the interactions between businesses in Ireland and Northern Ireland.
The later sections of the book focus on the evolving debate about the post-Brexit border between Ireland and Northern Ireland — a debate still ongoing at the time of writing.
At 350-odd pages, Brexit & Ireland is a fast and absorbing read and an insightful overview of developments thus far.
Brexit & Ireland | The Dangers, the Opportunities, and the Inside Story of the Irish Response by Tony Connolly is published by Penguin.