Why Brexit may no longer mean Brexit
Theresa May’s definition of Brexit may have to change significantly to ensure the Democratic Unionist Party prop up her depleted government.
After losing her majority in the UK Parliament, the Conservative Party leader has turned to Arlene Foster and the DUP in a bid to ensure she remains Prime Minister.
The development shifts Northern Ireland to the centre of UK politics for the first time since the Good Friday Agreement.
Today’s London Evening Standard is running a frontpage headline reading: “May’s Irish Bailout”.
All eyes will now be on what concessions Ms Foster will demand from the Tories in return for a ‘confidence and supply’ arrangement similar to the deal between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil in Dáil Eireann.
Throughout the election campaign Mrs May has indicated that Britain would move towards a ‘hard’ Brexit, saying that no deal would be better than a bad deal.
By contrast the DUP, while pro-Brexit, adopts a softer attitude. Many of its voters are farmers who rely heavily on EU grants for their income.
The DUP has produced a list of priorities it wants include in a Brexit deal:
- Ease of trade with the Irish Republic and throughout the EU
- Particular circumstances of Northern Ireland with a land border with the EU fully reflected
- Frictionless border with Irish Republic assisting those working or travelling in the other jurisdiction
- Comprehensive free trade and customs agreement with the EU
- Northern Ireland established as a hub for trade from Irish Republic into the broader UK market
- Strong protections for agri-food to guard against vulnerabilities to cheap inferior imports
Speaking this afternoon Mrs May said the UK needs certainty and the only way to achieve this is by the Conservatives and Unionists working together.
Incoming Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said the result means Mrs May has “no strong mandate to proceed with a hard Brexit”.
He said the shock outcome “represents an opportunity for Ireland” and that the Irish government is ready to participate in the negotiations on Brexit.
“We must ensure that the Brexit talks are handled in a smooth and coherent manner to secure the best possible outcome for Ireland, for Europe and the UK,” he said.