Friday 20 September 2019

Explainer: What next? Mrs May now needs to cajole, bully and bribe her own party

Stock photo: PA Wire/PA Images
Stock photo: PA Wire/PA Images
British Prime Minister Theresa May ‘still has work to do’. Picture: Getty
John Downing

John Downing

The next thing Mrs May now needs to do is cajole, bully and bribe her own party. John Downing explains all.

What is this deal?

A draft EU-UK exit treaty providing a UK-wide customs backstop plan to avoid a hard Border in Ireland. It would keep the UK inside the EU customs union until a final trade deal is agreed between the two sides.

Brussels agreed the proposal being presented as a concession to London. But there are guarantees that Northern Ireland will remain in a "deeper" relationship with the EU on the customs and regulatory side under the backstop plan. There are 400 pages of text in the deal and a separate general declaration on the future shape of a post-Brexit EU-UK trade relationship. This trade deal will take several years to negotiate.

A good outcome for Ireland?

It certainly looks that way. Ireland's key issue has always been to avoid "a hard Border" with the North. That goal has been achieved but further details have to be explored. British radical Brexiteers such as Boris Johnson have painted the outcome as "a win" for Dublin and a blow to the UK. Valuable trade between Ireland and Britain is also protected for as long as the transition arrangement maintains the current UK-EU trading relationship. There will be hopes Irish-UK trade can continue for much longer.

Will it fly?

Hard to say. It is likely, but not certain, that it will be endorsed by the other EU states and the European Parliament. The bigger difficulty is whether UK Prime Minister Theresa May can sell it at home, first to cabinet colleagues, then to parliament. Mrs May needs to persuade, cajole, bully and bribe her own Conservative Party colleagues and the DUP. The opposition Labour Party is determined to leave her to her fate.

What happens next?

Its first hurdle comes at a UK cabinet meeting in London starting at 2pm today. As many as nine ministers will go into that with misgivings. The prime minister will hope they will row in behind her when they contemplate the alternative which is a no-deal Brexit. But if it does not clear the British cabinet, things will very seriously stall. If it does clear that bar, the action moves back to Brussels where a special EU leaders' summit is likely on November 25.

Approval there would bounce it back to the Westminster parliament. Then the fun would start in earnest with Mrs May's divided minority government pulled in all directions.

Is Brexit now inevitable?

It is certainly more probable the UK will leave on March 29 next year. But delays, a Brexit-themed election, and possibly even another Brexit referendum cannot be ruled out.

Irish Independent

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