Whilst Brexit must be considered one of the most mind-numbing political adventures of our time, where has it gone ? Over the last few weeks it has dropped down the media preference list for reporting and virtually disappeared off the radar. I'm sure some things are going on apace behind the scenes but the political upheavals in Italy and now Spain seem to have consumed all of the EU's energies. Perhaps that's not entirely surprising because those upheavals represent the growing rift in the EU project and the potential for future fragmentation of the bloc. Brexit has become the lesser of the stresses being imposed upon the EU for the time being. Yet our clock is ticking. We have just nine months left to negotiate an acceptable deal that delivers Brexit and creates a working relationship with Europe as a whole and there are no indicators that there is any progress whatsoever in these directions. Industry is waiting, the electorate are waiting and the EU is waiting. Further delays are not an option now.
Whatever we think of Brexit, one way or the other it will have to be delivered - in some form - by 29th March, 2019. The 'form' is, however, the big question to tease our minds. If the PM forces her way toward agreeing some type of partnership or association on customs tariffs then almost by default we will have broken the very founding principle of Brexit and at the same time signed up to continuing financial commitments and judicial ruling by the EU. Maybe the PM thinks that she can survive such a betrayal of principle by virtue of the belief that the Labour opposition is unelectable and that the electorate will be forced to vote her back in. An interesting ploy, no doubt, but I think it overestimates the lack of faith the wider electorate might have in the Labour Party. One thing we British are keen on is political punishment. If a politician does something we broadly don't like we send out the lynch mobs and bay for blood irrespective of what the alternatives may be. And if the PM really does betray the Brexit ethos then she may well be being chased by the mob much sooner than she thinks. And whilst a Labour government with its present incumbents is an appalling notion it is quite feasible that they could win a general election for no other reason than the electorate wishing to punish the government - if, the PM pursues this partnership route with the EU. Big stakes.
Trumpland continues to be a merry-go-round of chopping and changing positions and beliefs. With North Korea, talks are off, then talks are on and then off again and now back on again with sneaky suggestions that that might change if the situation shifts. It's almost meaningless when measured in 'old fashioned' diplomatic terms and is reliant upon the whims of this singular president, a bully, fickle and capricious character who just happens to be in charge of the worlds greatest military capability. And perhaps that is the crunch. Governance from physical strength is ruling the day - a return to the despotic times of the Middle Ages we might muse - and we might reflect that it is the rest of the world that is thinking naively in believing in the 'progress' of humankind. A strong economic and military nation dictating the terms of just about everything - its a story history has recorded time and again...
And with Trumpy's trade tariff impositions we see the very nature of the beast. Protectionism is the default position of the bully state and where the bully is strong then he knows that he is in the driving seat. This, for us Brits, makes it all the more important to secure trade deals freely around the world and that, of course, requires Brexit to be delivered without legacy conditions that favour the EU.
Ireland as a whole is yet again in conflict with itself over the south's new abortion freedoms. The divide between north and south seems as big as it has ever been with a 'resistance' movement against changes to the abortion laws forming in political circles throughout Ulster. It seems to be a land that cannot grapple with the concepts of peace and reconciliation, always searching for a source of confronatation. Maybe that is its destiny.