Jacob Rees-Mogg is to Ireland what Donald Trump is to Mexico
Troubles and trade wars. That's what Jacob Rees-Mogg has in mind for the paddies.
When a figure like Donald Trump dominates the news cycle so completely, there is an ever-present temptation to frame anything and everything in those terms.
It's rarely accurate, let alone appropriate. But in the case of upstart Tory backbencher Jacob Rees-Mogg, there is little argument to be had.
An absurdly wealthy man, detached from the concerns of normal people, who has positioned himself as an anti-establishment leader of the revolution using a platform of combative social conservatism, anti-immigrant sentiment and a perplexing aura of unjustified arrogance. It's like I'm seeing double.
The more socially conscious elements of Ireland's commentariat have been fretting about Rees-Mogg since the 2017 General Election, when chatter began to bubble about a possible leadership challenge to Theresa May from the MP for Somerset.
However, this past weekend, in a spat that flew under the radar thanks to our media's over-coverage of the Papal visit — Rees-Mogg hit the big time.
Public statements made by Rees-Mogg surfaced on social media that were so egregious and, frankly, violent, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney was left with no option but to hit back. Statements that suggested that the Irish border problem could be solved simply by learning from the glorious example of... the Troubles.
"Ireland would not be a free-for-all," the video showed Rees-Mogg saying. "It would perfectly possible to continue with historic arrangements to ensure that there wasn't a great loophole in the way people could get into the UK, to leave us in just as bad a position as we are currently in."
"There would be our ability, as we had during The Troubles, to have people inspected. It's not a border that everyone has to go through every day, but of course, for security reasons, during The Troubles, we kept a very close eye on the border to try and stop gun-running and things like that."
Build the wall, as it were.
Jacob Rees-Mogg suggests that after Brexit, people crossing the Irish border should be subject to 'inspections, just like during The Troubles'. pic.twitter.com/pEnBNBBasU
— Stephen Ruth (@stephen_rth) August 24, 2018
Rees-Mogg's statements have been watched two million times, which is no surprise, as anyone who watched the video once has surely watched it several times more out of sheer disbelief.
Irish social media users with nightmarish first-hand experiences of the hard border — rifles through the car window in the faces of their fathers, soldiers who'd humiliate their mothers, not least the death and the violence it brought — were quick to express their nausea at Rees-Mogg's comments.
But this time, old Moggy had gone far enough to arouse the temper of the big guns. Coveney crashed the party and spoke out on Twitter, writing: "It’s hard to believe that a senior politician is so ill informed about Ireland + the politics of the
#Brexit Irish border issue that he could make comments like these. We have left “the troubles” behind us, through the sincere efforts of many, + we intend on keeping it that way."
Indeed, Coveney's only mistake was to label Rees-Mogg a "senior politician." He is not. He's not a cabinet minister, and he never has been. He is not a veteran of the Tory party, he has been an MP for eight years. Jacob Rees-Mogg, just like Trump, should be a virtual political non-entity.
It should go without saying that such grave insults to such hard-won peace have no place whatsoever in decent conversation. That they are amateurish. That a British politician would be so wanton about the safety of people in Ireland in Northern Ireland might not be entirely surprising, but his shamelessness is.
But using the Trump playbook, with Ireland in place of Mexico, Rees-Mogg is hoping to raise his profile, while showing the exact same absence of neighbourly concern.
And just like Trump, Rees-Mogg is using the fear of immigration to stoke his own political embers, presumably in the hope of mirroring Donald Trump's eventually all-engulfing inferno. His concerns about Ireland overlook Ireland completely. It's all about the fear of "immigrants" passing into the UK through the Irish border — a worry that there is basically no evidence to support.
Jacob Rees-Mogg: "Ireland sells us over £800m of beef a year. If we put tariffs on that, the Irish farming industry would be destroyed." pic.twitter.com/MlCodamO8B
— Property Spotter (@PropertySpot) August 29, 2018
But it's not just immigration. Rees-Mogg has also publicly floated the idea of a trade war with the Irish economy, sounding like something from straight out of 1932.
He is on record at The Express' EU debate as saying: "Ireland sells us over 800 million lbs of beef a year. If we put tariffs on that, the Irish farming industry would be destroyed."
Of course, it's this kind of brinksmanship and blackmail than Donald Trump has been relying on to secure deals of any nature — having already been through the trade war motions with the EU and China. Last week, Trump struck a bilateral trade deal with Mexico after more than a year of threatening to pull-out of the existing deal, NAFTA.
We could, perhaps, console ourselves with the idea that someone like Rees-Mogg is simply too ignorant to take power. But that sounds uncomfortably familiar, doesn't it? It would certainly ring a few bells with the American Democratic Party. Indeed, Rees-Mogg's inexperience and idiocy will only endear him to vast swathes of the electorate, who long for nothing more than to see a leader who throws their weight around.
Jacob Rees-Mogg is to Ireland what Donald Trump is to Mexico. A bully and a threat. Should he ever come to power, he will act in a way that shows contemptuous disregard for the economic well-being and physical safety of our citizens.
Unfortunately for Rees-Mogg, the Irish public has never taken well to bullies. A lesson he will learn should he ever assume any real power.