Wednesday 26 June 2019

Editorial: 'In the storm of Brexit, our Backstop is best insurance'

British Prime Minister Theresa May arrives at a European Union leaders summit in Brussels. Photo: REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw
British Prime Minister Theresa May arrives at a European Union leaders summit in Brussels. Photo: REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw


A fleeting glance at the political wreckage in Westminster and the obliteration of reason makes an irrefutable case for the backstop.

Theresa May's peregrinations through Europe look desultory and devoid of purpose, given her parlous position.

Not that anyone would begrudge her some respite and away time from the bickering wets she left in her wake; but as regards furthering her intention to acquire legal assurances, or meaningful renegotiation on the Withdrawal Agreement, she was always on a hiding to nothing in Brussels.

It is expecting far too much of European leaders to pacify querulous Conservatives who cannot even agree among themselves as to what they want.

The EU has nothing but sympathy and goodwill towards Mrs May and the British people. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar would also do all within his remit to help. After all, Ireland more than any other member has a huge interest in Britain getting a good deal; yet only so much can be done.

The problem for disgruntled Tories is the upside of Brexit has so far failed to materialise. The confection they put on the menu was half-baked with too many artificial sweeteners. There may be benefits, but they are far from tangible.

Meanwhile, the downside has suddenly come into view and it is a forbidding sight.

If there is some poetic justice in the fact Northern Ireland was not even deemed worthy of consideration when the Brexit bandwagon first rolled through Britain, and now dominates debate, there is no comfort. As Mr Varadkar pointed out last night after a lengthy encounter with Mrs May: "The deal that we have is the only deal on the table ... while it is far from perfect, I believe it is good for Britain and good for the European Union and I sincerely hope that it can still be ratified."

Even if the EU was of a mind to grant Mrs May legal assurances, there is no guarantee she will be around to see the matter through.

The deal must be voted on sooner or later. Mrs May's strategy is to go for later; running down the clock as close to March as she can.

Her hope is the enormity of the disastrous consequences of a disorderly Brexit will prey on minds to carry the day.

But delay is fraught with risk. Remember, 117 members of her own parliamentary party want her gone. If they vote with Labour, what then? An election, another referendum?

All we know for sure is that planning for a no-deal must be stepped up.

These are tempestuous times; as of now the backstop is the only cover we have and you don't cancel your insurance policy when you know there is a storm coming.

Irish Independent

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