Friday 18 October 2019

Editorial: 'Voices of reason ignored as Brexit ultras plough ahead'

Nigel Farage. Photo: AP
Nigel Farage. Photo: AP


With faux presidential aplomb, Nigel Farage has stolen the agenda from under the noses of mainstream politics in the UK.

Tories who dithered or schemed are now desperately chasing an uncatchable juggernaut.

In UK government circles, there is deep-rooted fear that the anticipated dismal results in the European elections could cascade into the next general election.

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Theresa May will soon be swept away, opening the way for a full-blooded swashbuckling Brexiteer.

None of which bodes well for an orderly Brexit.

With Conservatives facing annihilation and a strident Farage tipped to top the polls, the sombre tone struck by Tánaiste Simon Coveney yesterday, on our being closer to a disorderly exit of Britain from the EU, was entirely justified.

A grim Cabinet was informed by Mr Coveney that at no point in the past two-and-a-half years has the risk of a no-deal been greater.

Businesses who took a cavalier "it will be alright on the night" approach could pay dearly for their lack of preparation for a crash out, he cautioned.

Bereft of solutions, Mrs May's government appears to have allowed itself to be swayed by the clamour of beguiling nonsense peddled first by Mr Farage, and then parroted by various Tory grandees as its popularity grew.

Prosperous politicians have never grown poor from telling people what they want to hear.

They have the luxury of being sufficiently insulated from the possible economic downside.

Yesterday, Mrs May's chancellor, Philip Hammond, valiantly tried to introduce a note of reality. "There will be a longer-term effect, which means our economy will be smaller," he said. "I did not come into politics to make our economy smaller."

But there is no heeding such warnings as the Brexit drum-roll reaches a crescendo.

Near to home, Paris-based think-tank the OECD also warned how a no deal could plunge our economy into recession. We may desperately need the support of our EU allies in the days ahead.

To date, the British position has been to regard any reasoned compromise as a defeat.

Now, with all bridges burned and with virtually no prospect of achieving it, Mrs May is finally seeking common ground in parliament. Her "new-and-improved" version of the Brexit deal looks as feeble as the others in terms of getting across the line.

Offering MPs a vote on a second referendum and a temporary customs union in exchange for supporting her Brexit deal next month looks like another busted flush.

Her end was to end the "nightmare future of permanently polarised politics". But it appears to be another example of London talking to London,

An international agreement cannot be sidestepped by using domestic law. Brussels and Dublin, key stakeholders in the Withdrawal Agreement, can't be ignored. The worry now is the shameless fiction of a "clean break, no cost, no deal" sold so brazenly by Brexit ultras seems destined to hijack the official narrative.

Irish Independent

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