Monday 19 August 2019

Editorial: 'This is about seeing the full picture, not who blinks first'

Britain has loosened the Brexit boulder but we are directly in its path. Stock photo: Yui Mok/PA
Britain has loosened the Brexit boulder but we are directly in its path. Stock photo: Yui Mok/PA


According to Lord Byron, "Those who will not reason, are bigots, those who cannot, are fools, and those who dare not, are slaves."

The weeks ahead will reveal to which camp the various sides in the Brexit debate belong, but right now no side is looking especially clever.

"Turbo-charged" preparations for going over the cliff are being put together in London. The zeal for going into free-fall is hard to fathom. According to the British Office for Budget Responsibility, a no-deal would increase borrowing by £30bn (€32.6bn) a year and plunge the UK into recession.

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Another puzzling aspect of the debate is the belief that "crashing out" will bring an abrupt end to the torturous and circular argument since the fog of Brexit descended.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar addressed this yesterday, speaking at Hillsborough Castle.

Far from bringing things to a conclusion, a no-deal Brexit would result in a whole new round of British-European Union negotiations.

This would mean a reboot of the whole agonising process and at the top of the nightmarish agenda would be finding "a solution to the Irish Border". As well as being provocative, European Council President Donald Tusk may actually have been prophesying when he said there is a "special place in hell for those who promoted Brexit without a plan".

As Mr Varadkar noted, those "weary of Brexit", who hope the negotiations end on October 31 - deal or no-deal - are in for a shock.

"This goes on and on and on for many years. This doesn't end," he said. He also noted he did not accept that a no-deal was unavoidable. "I am not fatalistic about that," he said.

But Brussels is less hopeful. Top EU officials are now being quoted as saying the working hypothesis in Europe is a no deal is now most likely. If they are right, it is time for Mr Varadkar to come clean on what our preparations are, "turbo-charged" or otherwise.

The Taoiseach has steadfastly held the line and repeated once more yesterday: "Our position is that the Withdrawal Agreement, including the backstop, is closed but there is always room for talks and negotiations."

It is time he informed us where that "room" is.

True, Britain loosened the Brexit boulder but we are directly in its path.

If we can do nothing to divert it, how are we bracing for its impact on trade, security and every other aspect of life in these islands?

Back in 1985 another Conservative leader, Margaret Thatcher, was able to find common ground with another Fine Gael Taoiseach, Garret FitzGerald - also at Hillsborough Castle. The Anglo-Irish Agreement was the result.

Mr Varadkar says he has an open invitation to Mr Johnson without pre-conditions to talk.

This is not a contest on who will blink first, but rather about whose eyes are open to what happens when we breach the cliff edge and the ground is hurtling towards our faces.

Irish Independent

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