Tuesday 22 January 2019

Editorial: 'Brexit isn't fatal for EU but Ireland must brace itself'

'According to Mr Varadkar:
'According to Mr Varadkar: "People often say that a divorce can be like a death in the family. It can also bring those left behind closer together."' Photo: Getty Images
Editorial

Editorial

Even at this late hour there appears to be no end to what one British newspaper has described as the hallucinogenic phase of Brexit. Notions of clean breaks, with £39bn (€43bn) in the back pocket, and the upper hand with which to spend it, still abound.

Yet we are only two weeks away from a vote that looks destined to fail, delivering not a managed soft Brexit but a full impact, no safety-belt pile-up.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, speaking in Germany yesterday, described Brexit as "traumatic but not fatal for the EU". Not for the EU perhaps, but this country should brace itself.

Usually triage occurs after the collision, not before. According to Mr Varadkar: "People often say that a divorce can be like a death in the family. It can also bring those left behind closer together."

Evidently his intention was to unify at a time of turbulence for the EU. He explained how peace in Ireland was borne out of "the European ideal, by communities coming together, not growing apart". He is correct but there seems no appetite for reconciliation.

In full wrecking-ball mode, DUP Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson cranked up the consternation, dubbing the backstop a "con trick". There's not any way in which his party can support Mrs May's Brexit deal, he declared. And, it ought not be forgotten, this country has binding commitments and obligations in relation to how the country protects the integrity of the single market.

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe once again insisted yesterday there would be no hard Border. While on the issue of the backstop, he said it was something the UK government wanted. It offers the best ability to have low-friction trade with the EU in the future.

All of the above may be true, but we know without a UK deal the EU will insist that we protect the common trade area.

This means tighter security, tariffs and lengthy delays.

With only weeks to prevent such chaos, too many are wilfully sleepwalking into a nightmare. British Prime Minister Theresa May has spoken again to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in a now-despairing campaign to wring concessions.

As time vanishes, her mission appears doomed. The deal she fought hard to deliver is being rejected by her own supporters.

She is convinced there is another way, yet she chose the way and laid it down in red lines as the only route available.

As Mr Varadkar said, it would be helpful if EU leaders knew what clarifications they could offer. Brexit may not be "fatal" but were it to be killed off or die a natural death, its epitaph might read: "Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time..."

Irish Independent

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