Editorial: 'New tactics for the Brexit endgame'
Tough talk about the "backstop" and "no hard border" was appropriate and necessary for a long time. It wasn't whistling past the graveyard. Rather it was a means of stiffening the resolve of our European partners and trying to encourage the British parliament to accept the deal that had been negotiated with Theresa May.
But now as we really are approaching the endgame, some things that were obvious to the few are becoming clear to the many. If there is no deal, there is no backstop. If there is no backstop, then this Republic will have the task of implementing the external border of the EU. That constitutes part of the terms and conditions of the membership of the Community. If Britain leaves the EU without a deal, there will be tough times for everyone. Last week we got some chilling analysis to this effect. The Central Bank told us that a disorderly Brexit would hit employment levels, incomes and the financial standing of the banking sector. The job losses estimate by the Government here is set at 55,000.
A Northern Ireland civil service report predicted 40,000 jobs lost in that part of the island, with a "profound and long-lasting" effect on the North's economy and society, and "immediate and severe" consequences for competitiveness in the all-island economy and its place in the UK internal market.
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Right now as we await the installation of a new British prime minister, a no-deal Brexit seems very likely. Boris Johnson, the favourite to occupy Downing Street, seems utterly determined to leave by October 31, with or without a deal. There is a possibility that those in parliament opposed to no-deal will seek to remove that option. And if they look likely to succeed, prime minister Johnson could take the radical step of trying to suspend parliament. This could, in turn, lead to an election, which might produce another Brexit referendum. But we cannot bank on that.
Of course, Boris Johnson says none of this needs to happen, because he is confident he can get the EU to re-negotiate the Theresa May deal so that it will be acceptable to the British parliament, despite the fact that the nominee for the presidency of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, says the new Commission, led by her, will maintain the same position as its predecessor.
We should be grateful that the Commission does not seem to be reneging from the Irish position, but we also have to recognise the changes that are happening and react to them. And if that means applying the kind of nuance and subtlety to any future EU contacts with the British government, that would allow Mr Johnson persuade his parliamentary colleagues that he had achieved some meaningful changes to the Theresa May deal - without the EU selling the backstop pass - we should not be found wanting. In particular, he will need to be able to persuade the DUP to move from the totally intransigent position they have held since talks first began.
The alternative for all of us is just too damaging to be allowed to happen merely by default.