It used to be said in the days of the Soviet Union that the only borders the Soviets liked were ones which had the USSR on either side of them.
It looks as though the EU is taking much the same view over the international border on the island of Ireland but how consistent is this with its jealous guardianship of its other external borders?
A million migrants responded to Mrs Merkel’s 2015 invitation on behalf of the German nation and found their way across the EU’s supposedly secure frontiers and through various member states to take up the offer.
Some of these new arrivals celebrated New Year’s Eve according to their cultural traditions in front of Cologne Cathedral. Hooray.
If a million people – Northern Ireland boasts less than twice this number in total – can cross into the EU with impunity then the excellent, generally home-loving people of Ulster must represent a quite extraordinary threat since present border conditions are inadequate to contain them.
Those other migrants who breached the EU’s borders and who enjoyed all the scenic variation while travelling through the Schengen Area before holing up in the insalubrious Calais ‘Jungle’ are another testament to the impermeability of the EU.
Many member states in Eastern Europe show alarming signs that the borders which they mostly seek to reinforce are the ones with EU neighbours to the west. It’s astounding that after forty years behind the Iron Curtain there are countries whose thirst for barbed wire and watchtowers has not been slaked.
It is more astonishing that it should now be the EU which threatens Ireland, a formerly troubled corner of Europe, with barbed wire and watchtowers for reasons that look like spite and which could fan old animosities into flame.
Italy’s interior minister, Mr Salvini, has called a halt on Italian ports taking in the short-changed clients of people-smugglers fished out of the Med within sight of the African coast by NGO vessels. For enforcement of Italian – and hence EU – borders. Salvini has received nothing but cross-border name-calling although his popularity at home has soared.
On it goes. Cast your mind back to the summer and the story of Penka the Bulgarian bovine who left her pasture and like James Bond (moo moo seven) evaded guards and patrols, crossed minefields littered with tank traps and slipped into Serbia on the demonstrable basis that the grass is always greener outside the EU.
Penka just wandered off, crossed an invisible border and ended up in Serbia. EU officials, because such is their nature, ordered that the animal be destroyed as it lacked the necessary paperwork to re-enter the EU so to hell with other people’s property or livelihoods or common sense. In the end Penka was spared thanks to vigorous intervention by ordinary people who called out the nonsense for what it was.
Penka’s border is what is called for in Northern Ireland – everything else is malice and double dealing. If controls between Serbia and Bulgaria can be this lax, then there is no justification for changing things in Ireland.
Picking up on another story from the summer, in-depth TCW research reveals an exciting new insight into life at Westminster.
You might remember that the MP Claire Perry got into a froth when the House of Commons Speaker chided her for ‘dilating’. The context made it clear that she was being invited to stop wittering on but Perry accused John Bercow of using ‘demeaning language’ because, poor sap that she is, she thought he was referring to natural developments within the inner woman around the time of confinement, a topic which men by-and-large steer a wide berth around and which explains my coyness.
Now I will yield to no one in wanting hot coals to be heaped upon the poisonous diminutive Speaker but Bercow watchers will long have noticed his love of archaisms, his tendency for instance to tell MPs to take ‘medicaments’ when they become ‘excitable’.
For those who are Kindle-savvy you can buy the complete works of Anthony Trollope for something under £2 which is a fantastic bargain.
Use the search function and you will find that Trollope uses the word ‘dilate’ thirty-three times in his entire œuvre though never in an obstetric context.
It would be kind if we could henceforth respect Ms Perry’s sensitivities by avoiding trigger words that might inflame her identitarian sense of female victimhood: words such as ‘contraction’, ‘cycle, ‘period’ and possibly even ‘Easter’.
Luckily there is cross-party support for this as the kittenish Labour MP, Stella Creasy, wants misogyny to be classed as a hate crime. This is a jolly good idea which will command wide support particularly if at the same time nagging and cattiness can be added in a spirit of inclusiveness.
But what does all this tell us about Bercow? Well the appalling thing is that the little squirt probably sees himself as a modern embodiment of Plantagenet Palliser, Duke of Omnium, whereas true Trollope enthusiasts will see him more as a dead ringer for Augustus Melmotte, a man who came from nowhere and headed to oblivion.