Wednesday 16 October 2019

Any delay to shambles of Brexit must be meaningful

‘The tough questions Mrs May has consistently failed to answer can no longer be avoided.’ Stock image
‘The tough questions Mrs May has consistently failed to answer can no longer be avoided.’ Stock image


If blundering on regardless constituted strategy, Theresa May would have got her way months ago. The art of victory is said to be learned in defeat. If this is so, Mrs May is surely the exception to the rule.

It has as yet to be confirmed as to whether the Vatican had been put on notice to record a miracle, but had Mrs May's Withdrawal Agreement gone through - given it was voted down by a margin of 230 in January - a miracle it certainly would have been.

The scale of defeat was the only issue.

The favoured ploy of bludgeoning all around her towards another precipice, in the belief once people gazed into the abyss they would back her, has grown old.

The foundational miscalculation of Brexiteers - that Brussels would blink at the last minute, favouring the UK; and Ireland would then be whipped into line on the backstop - has been exposed.

The geniuses who devised Brexit from the get-go regarded the issue of a hard Border as minor, that's if they regarded it at all. At worst it would be glossed over, or kicked into the long grass, to be lost forever.

Key advisers failed to recognise the real nut to be cracked was the protection of the common trade area and customs union.

Protecting Ireland was incidental to the security of guarding the world's biggest trading bloc.

Last year, the European Union's GDP was estimated to be $18.8tn (€16.6tn). The Good Friday Agreement and the peace process mattered; but it was serendipitous our interest coalesced with those of Brussels. The Gordian knot tightened and thickened the more the Tories pulled and tugged against it.

The Irish Government gave what ground it could, allowing Mrs May to tout "legally binding" changes. But the Strasbourg concessions were not enough to convince the British attorney general the UK would not be "trapped" indefinitely.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar had to stick to his position. The question now is "what next?" The British public longs for a return to orderly, stable government. This could be a long way off. The tough questions Mrs May has consistently failed to answer can no longer be avoided. Likewise, the DUP, and European Research Group, could find themselves stuck in the labyrinthine crisis, never to escape Brussels' orbit.

Brexit could be lost if they are not careful.

Parliament may soon have to play a deciding role. Someone must take control, matters once again appear to have run away on Mrs May. Should a delay be required, unlike the two votes it will have to be "meaningful".

A referendum or a confirmation vote may also be necessary to convince Brussels something concrete is on the table for a delay to be constructive.

Extreme Brexiteers have become connoisseurs of chaos. Far from being abashed by the consternation, they are seen to relish it as a badge of honour. Jean-Claude Juncker has been around for a while. When he cautioned this was Britain's last chance, he should be heeded.

Irish Independent

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