“Thank you and goodbye”

so long

Britain has presented a letter to the president of the European Council officially invoking Article 50 of the EU treaty, beginning the process of withdrawal from the European Union.

This was the EU Council President Donald Tusk’s response:

And just to spice it all up, Germany has decided it’s not going to make things easy.

A border, seen or unseen

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PVCP_near_NewryThe first time I crossed the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic it was the summer of 1992, and it looked exactly like these pictures, taken at roughly the same time and in the same place, along the M1 motorway that connects Belfast and Dublin.

My wife and I were there on holiday, and we had decided to take a swing through the border counties of Northern Ireland en route from Connemara and the Aran Islands to Dublin.

Crossing into the north in our little rented Nissan Micra was a simple proposition. The border station near Belcoo, between Sligo and Enniskillen, was deserted. The booths were empty, the gates raised. Not a soldier nor customs agent was in sight.

Given that earlier experience, the British Army checkpoint on the M1 came as a shock of sandbags, soldiers, and machine guns.

The last time I crossed that border, this time by bus, was a year ago and the only indication that I had passed out of one country and into another was the change in carrier on my cellphone.

I will be back there again at the end of this week, this time traveling with my son, who will turn 18 on the overnight flight across the Atlantic. He’ll be the same age as many of those British soldiers who trained their guns on us as we crossed the border back in 1992, and likely the same age as some of the IRA volunteers who blew that checkpoint up with a 2,200 lb. bomb in May of the same year.

When we cross the border on our way to Belfast, it could very well be one of the last times that the border will still exist in essentially name only. With Britain voting to leave the European Union, of which the Republic of Ireland will remain a member, the reimposing of a hardened border may well be one of the most visible signs of the new Brexit reality.

If the United Kingdom really wants to reestablish strict border control, which was the emotional heart of the case for pulling out of the EU, then the UK will have no other choice than to restrict the Northern Irish border lest the unrestricted migration within the EU spill into the UK through this obvious back door.

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel has declined to back a special arrangement suggested by the Irish government that would allow the soft border with Northern Ireland to stay as is should Britain follow through with Brexit.

It won’t happen over night, but assuming Britain invokes Article 50 of the EU treaty and begins the formal process of withdrawal, the border as it stands today will be fundamentally changed, and gone with it will be many of the other unseen structures and dynamics that have contributed to the almost 20 years of peace bought by the Good Friday Agreement.

Should this happen the unseen border will once again be seen, with all that connotes. Perhaps it won’t feature as many soldiers, sandbags, or machine guns, but it certainly won’t be the invisible reality of today, marked only by a notification on your cellphone.

The company Trump keeps

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Donald Trump, speaking to reporters at the reopening of his golf course in Scotland, had something to say about yesterday’s British vote to quit the European Union, the so-called Brexit:

I think it’s a great thing that’s happened. It’s an amazing vote, very historic.

Before going further, let’s take stock of the first day’s Brexit economic damage:

  • Dow down 610 points, or 3.39 percent
  • NASDAQ down 202 points, or 4.12 percent
  • US banking stocks took a pounding (Morgan Stanley -10.15%, Citigroup -9.36%, Bank of America -7.41%)
  • Japan’s Nikkei down 7.92 percent
  • Germany’s DAX down 6.82 percent
  • Moody’s downgraded the UK’s credit outlook from “stable” to “negative”
  • Value of the British pound fell 11 percent to a 30-year low against the US dollar
  • £40 billion was wiped off the bottom line of British banks, equivalent to about $55 billion

So in case you’re wondering, this financial catastrophe, the biggest since the global economic meltdown of 2008, is what Donald Trump was applauding when he congratulated UK voters for walking out of the European Union.

But Trump sees the collapse of Britain’s currency is nothing less than a personal windfall:

When the pound goes down, more people are coming to Turnberry, frankly. For traveling and for other things, I think it very well could turn out to be a positive.

Of course Trump is not the only one lauding the United Kingdom’s voters for ditching the EU, and that’s the real point of this post. Let’s take a look at the company the presumptive GOP nominee for president is keeping.

European far right parties are fully on Trump’s side

  • In France, the National Front’s Marine Le Pen hailed Brexit as a “Victory for Freedom.”
  • In the Netherlands, far right anti-immigration leader Geert Wilders said, “I think it could also have huge consequences for the Netherlands and the rest of Europe. Now it’s our turn.”
  • In Germany, Beatrix von Storch, of the right wing populist Alternative für Deutschland party said, “The 23 June is a historic day. It is Great Britain’s independence day.”
  • In Greece, the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn, Europe’s most violent right wing party, released this statement: “Golden Dawn welcomes the victory of the nationalist and patriotic forces in Great Britain against the European Union, which has been transformed into the doleful instrument of loan sharks.”

But that’s not all. On our side of the Atlantic, the racist right is also on the same page as Trump, responding to the UK vote with, as the Southern Poverty Law Center puts it, “euphoric delight”:

“This is VICTORY DAY, brothers,” Andrew Anglin, editor of the anti-Semitic website Daily Stormer wrote on Friday. “Nothing can stop us now. But the fact is, brothers: nothing ever could stop us. God and nature are on our side. The stars themselves declare our ULTIMATE VICTORY over the (((forces of darkness and evil))).” (The parentheses are a new online trope used by racist trolls to single out names and things they believe are Jewish.)

So that’s the company Donald Trump keeps. European fascists and neo-Nazis. American racists and anti-Semites.

And that’s the man Republicans are poised to nominate for president a month from now in Cleveland.