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Monday, January 21, 2019

May grasps at straws in attempt to construct fantasy Brexit

I suspect that when the House of Commons voted to insist on the Prime Minister presenting her Brexit Plan B to them today, they were expecting a realistic rethink of her approach based on cross-party working and an alliance of MPs, which by-passed some fairly reluctant and intransigent leaders.

Instead, it appears that Theresa May has given up on bringing other parties on board, cannot see past her own red lines and has decided that she is capable of defying political gravity, with a proposal that would be more at home down Alice in Wonderland's rabbit hole than in the real world.

As the Independent reports, May believes that the best way of securing a majority in the House of Commons is to win over her own hardliners and the DUP by finessing the Good Friday Agreement and effectively abandoning the backstop, which guarantees an open border between Northern Ireland and Eire.

The paper says that May plans to bypass the European Union and secure a bilateral Brexit treaty with Ireland. This would involve the UK trying to convince Ireland to agree a plan for keeping the Northern Ireland border open after Britain leaves the EU:

Under the new proposal being discussed by No 10, the Sunday Times reports, the UK would try to convince the Irish government to negotiate a treaty that would remove the need for the backstop, which Brussels insisted on as an insurance policy to ensure an open border is maintained even if the EU and UK cannot agree a trade deal.

The arrangement would see the UK enter into a temporary customs union with the EU, and Northern Ireland agree to abide by European rules on goods until a subsequent deal was reached.

A Downing Street source said talk of a bilateral agreement with Ireland was "not something we recognise".

Liam Fox, the international trade secretary, appeared to confirm the plan, however, telling the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “We have to compromise on the backstop. If we’re to get the agreement through, we absolutely have to do that. The question is how we find a way to do that.”

Asked what such a compromise might involve, he said: “It’s getting an agreement with Ireland on an alternative mechanism to ensure that we don’t get friction across the Norther Ireland-Ireland border.”

What is most interesting about this is that some Ministers actually entertain the delusion that Ireland can be separated off from the EU, when it is that country's government which is driving the EU's insistence on a backstop.

The paper quotes Simon Coveney, the Irish foreign minister, on Twitter: “As Brexit dominates news coverage, no surprise that some analysis today gets it wrong. I can reassure you the Irish government’s commitment to the entire [withdrawal agreement] is absolute – including the backstop to ensure, no matter what, an open border between Ireland + NI and the [Good Friday Agreement] are protected.”

Whilst an Irish government source told the Sunday Times that a bilateral treaty “doesn’t sound like something we would entertain”.

If this is the best that the UK Government can come up with then it is little wonder that we are in such a mess.
It isn't a fantasy Brexit May has constructed. It is a trap. She knows that unless a massive number of MPs suddenly grow a spine, now, and work together to execute a real plan to take control (and so far they have done about a quarter of what is needed) when the March deadline approaches they will realise that her plan is better than Remain (if they are leavers) and better than a No deal Brexit (if they are remainers).

I still think she is about 80% certain to get us out of the EU on her terms.
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