Bristling Brock speaks out...

 

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What a peculiar day in politics yesterday must have been for Mrs May.  Cosy chats with Jean-Claude Juncker suddenly interrupted by a phone call from the DUP !   The argument goes that the DUP want Northern Ireland to be exactly the same as the rest of the UK post-Brexit (quite a reasonable position you might say) and not have some strangely worded alignment phrase built into the relationship with Eire.  The DUP were worried by some behind the scenes betrayal by Mrs May who might have been on the cusp of agreeing with old JCJ something of a different arrangement that gave the Irish border some sort of quasi EU status - customs union, single market type of stuff, maybe, possibly, who is to know ?

If I was a resident of Northern Ireland, it is perhaps reasonable to think that you are still part of the United Kingdom and that any Brexit choices agreed upon will be universally applied irrespective of which bit of the UK you might live in.  In this I think the DUP have a valid point - why should we have a different status, they might wonder ?   OK, so let's consider how this furore all might have come about.

Point 1:  The government of Eire do not want a hard border with the north (so they say).   OK, that's their preferred position for the time being.

Point 2:  The Eire government declare they will block any Brexit consensus that doesn't include an open border with the north.

Point 3:  But an open border means that Britain cannot be in absolute control of its borders and, therefore, its immigration - one of the core tenets of the Brexit referendum.

Point 4:  Yet it is the UK who are exiting the EU based upon a public mandate to fulfill certain specific demands.  The government in Eire should be negotiating with its EU partners rather than trying to block the UK.

Point 5:  As ever, politics is drawn into the debate with concerns being raised over the integrity of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement - the bit that effectively was the peace declaration between republican Irish and UK loyalists in the north - raising fears that if a hard border ensues everyone will start fighting each other again.   Personally, I don't see quite where this argument fits with Britain's Brexit arrangements whichever border condition may be agreed upon in the future - it seems much more likely to be a political ploy just to mess the debate up and delay things even more than they are already.

Point 6:  My conclusion, therefore, is that Mrs May should not be negotiating any different status for Northern Ireland.  If she accepts that Northern Ireland is part of the UK (which she really cannot dispute) then they are entitled to the precise same political and trade conditions that exist elsewhere in the UK.   The fact the JCJ is trying to manipulate a special status out of Mrs May to enable Eire to enjoy some sort of dual EU relationship is a matter for the EU, not Britain and Mrs May should have the balls to tell him so.

Mrs May's conundrum is almost farcical if it wasn't so serious.   On the one hand she wants to appease JCJ and soften her position on a special border arrangement in Ireland (which he and the Eire government seem to favour in the knowledge that this will scupper any advances to be made on a British trade deal with the EU) in order to get started on discussing future trade - for if she fails on that then she knows she is political toast - whilst on the other hand she needs the DUP's support in the Commons to hold her majority and resist falling into another election which she knows pretty much that the outcome of that will be that she'll not just be toast but incinerated crumbs.  The national dilemma that results from this is that, yes, a universal deal should be applied across all of the UK, whatever that may be, but if she betrays the DUP and softens the border she'll lose their political support in the Commons and that will result in an election that Labour could almost certainly win.   Now all thinking people wouldn't let Corbyn, McDonnell or Watson anywhere near No. 10 but we live in this Trump like era where the most unlikely may well happen.  And if that were to happen we'd really be up the creek, bankrupt and learning the lyrics of Jerusalem by rote.  It is a hugely dangerous position the foolish Mrs May finds herself in. 

The simple solution would be for Mrs May to tell the EU where to go and walk out, triggering an instant and hard Brexit.  But she won't unless she fails to pacify the Northern Irish with universality and win the trade debate with the duplicitous JCJ.    That all seems very precarious, doesn't it - after all, it's in JCJ's interest to thwart progress on Britain's desire for trade talks and maybe, just maybe, that is the real underlying reason for the Eire government making the noises they are.  But is Mrs May savvy enough to fight this one through ?   She's certainly showed no mettle to date....