Tuesday 20 March 2018

Shona Murray: Shambolic scenes fail to inspire confidence for second phase

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May addresses a news conference during an European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium, October 20, 2017. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir/File Photo
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May addresses a news conference during an European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium, October 20, 2017. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir/File Photo

Shona Murray

EXTRA language in agreed text is the likely solution to bring comfort to the DUP that Northern Ireland won't be treated separately from the rest of the UK, and be enough to seal the deal on the Irish Border issue.

Although the text and meaning of the original wording will remain the same, there will be a guarantee outlining that Northern Ireland - as a fully fledged member of the UK - will not be set apart after Brexit.

The inevitable commitment to regulatory alignment is a fall-back guarantee in the case of the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal.

The aspiration is that a decent trade deal that keeps the UK as close to the EU as possible will eventually be concluded and this sorry mess will have been unnecessary. Hopefully at the end of next week's crucial EU summit of heads of state and government, there will be unanimous conclusion that the next phase of Brexit talks can begin.

But the erratic and shambolic scenes in British politics over the past 18 months don't bode well for a seamless accession through phase two.

A discussion about a transitional deal after the UK leaves in 2019 is next on the agenda. The EU will likely insist that the UK maintain the status quo during this period, which means adherence to the four principles of the EU, including freedom of movement. Hard Brexiteers won't like that and will likely accuse the EU of holding them hostage. Even getting agreement on this very point will be testy and undoubtedly deteriorate trust further. There will be more calls and threats to walk away.

Despite the fact that in the past 48 hours there has been an overall de-escalation of tensions on the EU, UK and Irish sides, the fact that it has taken 18 months to get to this point is quite remarkable.

Never mind the fact that there have been some spectacular fails along the way.

We've learned that Brexit Secretary David Davis, himself an ardent Brexiteer, hasn't bothered to carry out sectoral impact assessments on the ramifications of Brexit. This is in spite of the glaringly obvious threats that exist when pushing for a decision of such magnitude.

We also learned that leading members of the Tory Party don't care the slightest bit about factual accuracy. Both Jacob Rees Mogg

and Iain Duncan Theresa Smith (IDS) May lied about the current state of play in Irish politics, claiming that the Irish Government has decided to play `hardball' with Britain because Fine Gael is under pressure from Sinn Fein.

IDS went further when he referred to the apparent imminence of the presidential election. Normally well-informed broadcasters were unable to contradict either of their assessments and they went unchallenged.

Such was the risible nature of these comments, they barely deserved a response from Irish politicians.

Ireland and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar have also been the target of the sinister ire from the Eurosceptic press - another British entity happy to play fast and loose with the truth.

Meanwhile, it's increasingly unclear who the Irish Government will be dealing with in the medium future.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May's authority is in tatters. Upon the news late last night that a deal was in the offing, reputable British media sources reported that the DUP requested to travel to Downing Street to publicly announce the plan.

Whitehall officials were refusing to adhere to such a contrived display for fear questions would arise as to which one is the real prime minister and therefore calling the shots - Theresa May or Arlene Foster?

Online Editors

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Also in this section