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Puttnam warns UK of Brexit threat to Irish relations

February 27th, 2019 7:15 AM

By Siobhan Cronin

David Puttnam says that Britain is no longer ‘a sensible country'.

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SKIBBEREEN resident Lord David Puttnam gave a passionate speech in the House of Lords in London last week, blasting Britain’s attitude to Ireland in the Brexit debacle.

Describing Brexit as ‘the gravest matter we’ve faced in the twenty years I’ve been here, and probably in my lifetime’ he said he had previously shared the common view that Britain was ‘a pragmatic country, a sensible country, a country with an instinctive aversion to extremism’.

But, he added: ‘It’s now clear that I was wrong on just about all counts.’

‘Our family home is now in West Cork,’ he added, ‘where for thirty years I enjoyed watching the relationship between my country of birth and my country by adoption grow ever closer – sadly it’s now clear that relationship is dangerously deteriorating.’

He explained that, as a businessman, he has negotiated hundreds of ‘trade deals’ with the US and that now he hears others speaking ‘rather airily of a special relationship’ between the US and Britain.

‘My Lords,’ he said, ‘this belief is either a cruel fantasy, or a deliberate falsification.’

Lord Puttnam said that no matter how close you may personally feel to an American business counterpart, when you sit across the negotiating table, all notions of ‘a special relationship’ go out of the window, and new rules apply.

He wondered if the UK’s international trade minister Liam Fox was aware that around 40m Americans claim Irish roots, and often describe themselves as Irish-American.

‘Is he also aware that no less than 63 US Congressmen and women are members of the ‘Friends of Ireland’ caucus – most of whom have direct Irish heritage?’ he asked.

He added that nine Republicans and seven Democrat senators claim direct Irish heritage. 

‘I’ll leave it to Dr Fox and those who advise him to work out the electoral consequences of a situation in which this country was, rightly, held responsible for severe disruption, and maybe disaster to the Irish economy – both sides of the border.’

He continued: ‘I think I can confidently make him one promise – should we accidentally, or through sheer ineptitude, crash-out, or endanger the Good Friday agreement, all the blame will lie with us – and we will not be forgiven in Ireland, Europe or, politically at least, in the United States.’

Lord Puttnam, the award-winning film producer, said he was now ‘very angry’ that Britain appeared to have amnesia when it came to Ireland and the consequences of the return to a hard border.

And he asked what plan did the British government have ‘for healing the wounds we’ve managed to inflict on our closest geographical and cultural neighbour – once all this present madness is behind us?’

‘Enormous damage has already been done, and we’ll have to work very hard, and with great imagination, to recover the relationship so brilliantly forged by Her Majesty the Queen less than eight years ago, in May of 2011,’ he said, referring to the Queen’s visit to Ireland, including Cork city.

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