Saturday 23 March 2019

Editorial: 'This is no time for the EU to deliver a different message'

'Without wishing to call the sanity of the leader of a neighbouring country into question, Theresa May does appear to be in repeat mode.' Photo: Reuters
'Without wishing to call the sanity of the leader of a neighbouring country into question, Theresa May does appear to be in repeat mode.' Photo: Reuters
Editorial

Editorial

The definition of insanity is said to be doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

Without wishing to call the sanity of the leader of a neighbouring country into question, Theresa May does appear to be in repeat mode.

The British prime minister is going around the mulberry bush once more with her Brexit withdrawal agreement.

Mrs May still thinks there is a way for her to satisfy Westminster, all parts of the United Kingdom and the EU with a deal she has failed to secure now for more than two years.

And yet she seems to be among the more sane members of the Houses of Parliament these days.

Mrs May was in Belfast yesterday making another worthy speech and expressing her appreciation to the people who are working hard to make Brexit as smooth a process as possible.

The prime minister insisted there was no suggestion Britain would leave the EU without some sort of a backstop insurance policy to protect against a hard Border in Northern Ireland.

She said she would only accept that technology could play "a part" in any alternative arrangements, and that she would not countenance anything that would disrupt the lives of Border communities.

Her commitment to avoiding a hard Border in Ireland is "unshakeable". Unfortunately, this is coming from someone standing on a plinth built on sand.

The prime minister seemed to be accepting there would be a backstop - just not the backstop envisaged under the existing withdrawal agreement between the EU and the UK.

Exactly what she does have in mind isn't clear. Mrs May is developing a talent for saying whatever she feels her audience wants to hear. And there's a different message for different audiences.

Immediately, her comments in Belfast generated a negative response from Brexiteers in London.

Illustrating the difficulty in balancing the demands of the various conflicting influences over the process, Brexit supporters were alarmed at the idea she was taking a step back from previous assurances.

Northern Ireland is the smallest and least populated country in the UK. And the Brexiteer wing is not going to allow it to hold up the departure.

Mrs May is now preparing a different message for a different audience as she prepares to meet EU leaders in Brussels for the first time since her monumental Westminster defeat on her Brexit deal.

She will request the reopening of the withdrawal agreement to address concerns on the backstop.

The British tactics seem to rely upon jittery nerves at the prospect of a no-deal Brexit prompting concessions as the finishing line approaches.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar also heads to Brussels to discuss contingency plans for a no-deal Brexit.

Mr Varadkar is caught between the rock of no backstop and the hard place of no deal. However, the EU is on our side - for now.

The EU has to hold its nerve. This is no time for a different message to be delivered.

Irish Independent

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