Sunday 25 August 2019

Health warning now needed amid lack of hope for any solution

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

We're reaching the stage where news articles about Brexit should come with a health warning.

They invoke feelings of anger, frustration, depression and confusion.

That is, of course, unless you're a Boris Johnson supporter and are still being inspired by the spirit of the blitz.

The reality is that not even the best economists or politicians truly knows how this is all going to play out over the coming months.

It will be bad. Of that there is no doubt.

Today the Irish Independent reveals the Government is gradually accepting no deal is the 'central scenario'. That's civil service language for the most likely outcome.

There are a few ways that a no-deal situation can be avoided. One is a complete and utter capitulation on the backstop, which simply isn't going to happen.

On this issue, the EU is in too deep. Even if Taoiseach Leo Varadkar decided the backstop wasn't worth risking a no deal over, other EU leaders would argue that they would lose all credibility for future trade negotiations if they allow Johnson to win. The next easiest way to avoid catastrophe would be for Johnson to back down, but that seems equally unlikely given his "do-or-die" pledge to get out on October 31.

So what about a compromise? Politics is suppose to be the art of compromise, after all.

Much has been made about when Varadkar and Johnson will actually sit down to discuss the impasse.

As things stand there is no meeting scheduled in either man's diary. Sources in Dublin believe the prime minister is in no rush to meet any European leader, least of all the Taoiseach.

"Right now he is still in campaign mode. He can talk about delivering Brexit and how the EU is being unreasonable. But the minute he actually meets with Varadkar or other EU leaders he'll have to answer questions and put forward a proposal," a source said.

The Irish Government is assuming that Johnson will come to Dublin in September because Downing Street can't put off the inevitable showdown much longer than that.

By then he will have already come face to face with Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron, Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk at the G7 summit in Biarritz. None of them is likely to be looking forward to that get-together.

The next full meeting of EU Council members isn't until October 17 - a fortnight before Brexit.

EU precedent suggests deals are always done at the 11th hour, but this feels different.

Really, we can just hope that the UK Parliament does what many Brexiteers said they wanted during the referendum and 'takes back control'. House of Commons speaker John Bercow has promised to fight any attempt to prorogue, or suspend, parliament "with every bone in my body".

That could bring us to a general election in the UK where any outcome is possible.

So here's the health warning: If you're feeling sick of Brexit, it hasn't even started yet.

Irish Independent

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