Tuesday, May 28, 2024
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At least no-deal will leave Irish eyes smarting


IT IS clear now that there will be no deal between the UK and the EU that involves customs or other checks on the British border with the Republic of Ireland. 

Therefore there will be no deal. This is the decision of the Irish government, which the EU supports.

No deal will hurt everyone, but it is a consolation that it will hurt the Irish Republic more than any other country.

Perhaps there never was any possible deal that did not leave Northern Ireland in a customs union with the EU, and we were all misled by Theresa May.

In an interview shortly after his resignation from May’s cabinet on 15 November 2018, Dominic Raab, who had been Brexit Secretary and is now Foreign Secretary, said: ‘There were certainly swirling dark forces in the commission, which you would hear rumbling that Northern Ireland was the price the United Kingdom must pay for leaving the EU . . . The trail always seems to lead back to Martin Selmayr.’ 

The backstop was unacceptable unless time-limited. In fact, I believe that Eire would never have allowed the UK to get rid of the backstop. Why would they? But it seemed otherwise a few weeks ago when Angela Merkel told Donald Tusk that a deal must be found to which Boris Johnson could agree.

Since then the Benn Act has become law and Boris has lost the power credibly to threaten to leave with no deal, though paradoxically the chances of his doing so are higher than ever.

The other big news is the long text message sent to James Forsyth of the Spectator by an anonymous ‘contact inside No 10’ whose prose style suggests it is Dominic Cummings, Boris’s Svengali. 

Anonymous says: ‘The negotiations will probably end this week. Varadkar doesn’t want to negotiate. Varadkar was keen on talking before the Benn Act when he thought that the choice would be “new deal or no deal”. Since the Benn Act passed he has gone very cold and in the last week the official channels and the back channels have also gone cold. Varadkar has also gone back on his commitments – he said if we moved on manufactured goods then he would also move but instead he just attacked us publicly. It’s clear he wants to gamble on a second referendum and that he’s encouraging Barnier to stick to the line that the UK cannot leave the EU without leaving Northern Ireland behind.’

He (or she) adds that if Boris’s suggested deal is rejected, the Tories will fight an election on a no-deal ticket. ‘We’ll either leave
with no deal on 31 October or there will be an election and then we will leave with no deal.’

Please read the whole piece.

Theresa May made so many mistakes and gave away so many positions. Her worst mistake was agreeing with Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny in 2016 to find ‘creative and imaginative’ ways to deal with customs checks.

After a meeting at 10 Downing Street, Kenny claimed to speak for both himself and Mrs May when he said: ‘A hard border in normal circumstances means customs posts and customs checks in various places. There will be no return to the hard border between the Republic and Northern Ireland of the past, which included towers and military equipment, obviously for different reasons. So I do not favour, I do not agree to a hard border, with a whole range of customs posts, and neither does the prime minister.’ 

I was persuaded by customs experts in Dublin who said customs checks could be made remotely by electronic means. But now I see that if this were true why do Sweden and Norway not do something of the sort and why does no border in the world use these means of avoiding customs checks? Instead, even though Norway is in the single market, in Schengen, accepts free movement of citizens of EU member states and has close regulatory alignment with the EU, lorries wait around twenty minutes at the border. 

In a phone call with Boris Johnson yesterday, Angela Merkel said ‘a deal is overwhelmingly unlikely’ because ‘the UK cannot leave without leaving Northern Ireland behind in a customs union for ever’. 

The British Government no longer needs the DUP because it no longer has anywhere near a majority, but it will never in effect leave part of the country in the EU when it departs. So, though there may well be a delay to Brexit and a general election, if the Tories win this will very probably mean the UK leaving without a deal. This is because Boris does not want to lose votes to Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party.

The polls suggest the Tories will win, but nobody believes the polls after what happened in 2015, 2016 and 2017. If the Tories do win, it will be against the grain of recent history. Just as the Irish Home Rule Party made the UK’s two-party system a three-party system from 1886 to 1918, the Scottish National Party has done the same, starting with its landslide Scottish victory in 2015.

In Scotland the 2014 referendum on independence remade its political landscape. The 2016 Brexit referendum looks likely to do the same for the whole of the UK.

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Paul Wood
Paul Wood

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