I meant to continue the discussion from my previous post, but didn’t get around to it. Making amends now…
So we have outlined a “Minimal United Ireland” – one that I suspect most nationalists would hold is undeserving of the name. Nevertheless, from a technical point of view I believe it is valid, and therefore interesting.
I’d now like to consider its corollary – the “Maximal non-United Ireland”. Where the Minimal United Ireland (mUI) involves a transfer of sovereignty and little else, the Maximal non-United Ireland (MnUI) will involve co-operation and integration on every matter under the sun, but without any sovereignty transfer or modification to the Agreements. The best pre-existing example of this in the world today is the relationship between France and Germany.
Under the current structure of the EU, sovereignty is pooled in several areas, but the member states retain the right to un-pool their sovereignty by leaving. France and Germany, or at least their political elites, are keen on further integration that many other states are either circumspect about or openly hostile to. To satisfy this desire they have entered into several bilateral agreements, mostly informal, with the goal of co-ordinating their national policies. This idea of both formal and informal co-operation between sovereign states could serve as a basis for the MnUI.
Formal co-operation is already legally enshrined in the N-S Ministerial Council (c.f. EU Council of Ministers). Several shared agencies already exist, and a MnUI would see these expanded to cover a wide spectrum of policy areas. This approach does have its limitations: it is not always desirable to create extra layers of bureaucracy on top of existing ones; full mergers of Northern and Southern agencies could run afoul of funding and oversight squabbles; it may be too costly to have any formal structure in certain areas. A culture of Franco-German informal co-operation could help to fill in some of these gaps: bills in each jurisdiction could be drafted to minimise disparities across the Border; Northern and Southern departments could agree to take a common line in European meetings; NI MPs could make it a matter of principle to stand up for the interests of Ireland as a whole in Westminster, and the Republic could do the same for NI’s interests (impartially!) in other fora such as the UN.
No doubt much of this is already happening. Interestingly, I can think of no policy area which is immune to such co-operation – not even the diplomatic service. The issue of sovereignty could quietly rust in the hayloft.