Friday 20 April 2018

Britain is playing 'hokey cokey' politics over Europe - but with Brexit there will be no winners

British Brexit minister David Davis Picture: Getty
British Brexit minister David Davis Picture: Getty
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

When David Cameron began to canter through a political and cultural minefield towards Brexit, he said he wanted a better deal for Britain and Europe.

He was "not a British isolationist" but wanted to make things better for everybody.

The former prime minister asked the queen's subjects what they thought, and as often happens in an election, the majority thought about themselves and to hell with the common good.

Unfortunately for them, we now live in a world of interdependence. Whether it's trade, medication, technology or even sporting endeavours few, if any, countries are able to go it alone. The UK, perhaps drawing on nostalgia for the great empire, felt it could. Of course the lies, damn lies, that smothered the referendum campaign didn't help.

Now Mr Cameron's successors are trying to come up with a plan for the UK to have its cake and eat it.

In the area of customs, the UK government wants an interim agreement with the EU to allow the free trade of goods, but at the same it wants to be able to negotiate trade deals with other blocs.

The 'hokey cokey' policy will allow the UK to have one foot in, and one foot out, of the EU. The policy paper was published just days after two senior cabinet members, Philip Hammond and Liam Fox, wrote a newspaper article insisting the UK wouldn't stay in the EU via the back door.

The idea was ruled out as "a fantasy" by the European Parliament's Brexit co-ordinator Guy Verhofstadt, while Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon described it as "daft".

Today the UK will bring forward its ideas for dealing with the Border between the Republic and Northern Ireland. Sources say it wants the EU to recognise a "unique status" in the region because of the Good Friday Agreement.

Read More: UK wants cake and a licence to eat it with its customs proposals

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has ramped up the rhetoric in relation to what a future Border might look like - but the Brits now say it will be invisible.

So again, it's a case of the UK leaving the club while simultaneously continuing to enjoy its benefits.

Although most Irish people want the status quo to remain, there is a begrudging acceptance at Government level that this simply won't be feasible.

Whether cameras are erected to monitor travel across the Border, or vehicle tags become mandatory, something will have to change.

The EU insists it will not move on to talking about the future trade relationship with the UK until the Irish question is settled.

On the other hand, there appears to be a growing impatience in Britain with the priority being given to Ireland, to sorting out the divorce bill and to reaching an arrangement on citizens' rights.

Britain seems to want everything done on its terms, forgetting that it is up against 27 EU member states.

The ridiculousness of the situation can be summed up by the continued sight of Nigel Farage. His Ukip lied and scaremongered during the Brexit campaign and flopped during the snap election - and yet Mr Farage is still all over the UK media.

Watching Britain struggle to define Brexit is becoming exhausting.

It clearly believes the winner takes it all - sadly with Brexit there will be no winners.

Irish Independent

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