Wednesday 23 October 2019

Just when this debacle seemed to have reached rock bottom, it got worse


Holding the line: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in Brussels yesterday. Picture: AFP/Getty
Holding the line: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in Brussels yesterday. Picture: AFP/Getty
John Downing

John Downing

Q. Just how bad is this Brexit carry-on now? A. Hard to imagine things being any worse. Theresa May's November 25 EU-UK deal was so badly received it was not worth putting it to a parliamentary vote. While she survived a no-confidence vote, more than a third of her party voted against her.

Eighteen days after she did the EU-UK deal, she has failed to get the improvements she sought to help her successfully run a parliamentary vote. As things stand, a calamitous no-deal Brexit looms large. If this crux is not sorted, that is what will automatically happen on B-day, March 29 next.

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Q. What improvements did Mrs May seek?

A. A written guarantee that the Border backstop would last only 12 months.

This backstop keeps the UK inside the customs union, and gives special status guarantees to the North. The EU leaders agree the backstop should be temporary and replaced by a proper trade deal. But a time limit cannot be fixed.

They also rejected her request to give any political declarations legal status. She suggested this could be done by putting it in an annex to the Withdrawal Agreement.

Q. Why did EU leaders reject Mrs May's improvement requests?

A. Because they collectively fear many other EU countries would try the same route to get out of domestic difficulty.

Also, they do not believe she could sell the deal anyway, even with her more outlandish demands granted.

Some leaders struggled to understand what she sought. Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker annoyed Mrs May when he said she was being "nebulous."

Q. What, if anything, is the next move?

A. Publicly, no-deal Brexit preparations are stepped up. Privately, talks continue at official level to find devices to sweeten the UK deal without undermining it. EU leaders hope the no-deal implications will soften up some MPs at Westminster. January 14 is being cited as another potential UK MP voting date.

Q. Where does this leave Ireland?

A. Doing all right for now. Many Border battles have been won, but the war is not concluded. And a no-deal Brexit could mean economic perdition and a hard Border anyway by default.

Irish Independent

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