Brexit Deal or No Deal and Onwards to Phase II?

It seems that the UK Government has resigned itself to paying the “divorce bill” on the EU’s terms, although some of the Brexiteers don’t seem to realise this yet. It’s also rumoured that considerable progress has been made regarding the “children”.

The Irish rightly want a cast iron commitment that there will be no “regulatory divergence” between the North and the Republic and “muzak” like utterances from the UK do not cut the mustard. There is sadly substantial mistrust of the UK government on the border, both from historical precedent and a belief that the current Brexit group are not to be trusted. Ireland have the full backing of the EU. Donald Tusk, made that obvious in Dublin on Friday: “Let me say very clearly. If the UK offer is unacceptable for Ireland, it will also be unacceptable for the EU.”

The UK have been ignoring this issue for months (apart from producing a childishly inadequate position paper) and seemingly just hoped this issue would go away. At least the intellectual heavyweight of the Brexit team, David Davis, now seems to be aware that the Republic of Ireland is no longer part of the UK. At 11am frantic talks were still going on behind the scenes. But breaking news as of 12:00 seems to indicate that the UK has backed down and has accepted something very similar to the Irish position. The spin on this will be very interesting!

One obvious answer is an Irish Sea border and a special status for Northern Ireland as outlined for example in the study from the European Parliament AFCO committee

A “visible” border between the two parts of Ireland will certainly be unavoidable, however politically unwelcome it may be, if there is no trade agreement between the EU and the UK, if the UK adopts a cheap food policy, or if the UK lowers phytosanitary standards or other quality standards for agricultural or industrial products. If an economic border is needed for any of these reasons, it cannot be avoided by electronic surveillance methods. Since it seems likely that the UK will wish to be free to choose its future policies in these respects, a “visible” border will come into existence unless the UK is willing to adopt a free trade area solution, such as the European Economic Area or something like it, at least for Northern Ireland.

The DUP of course claim that they will veto any solution that gives NI special status, but with the latest Survation poll showing an 8 point lead for Labour over the Conservatives and a prediction that Labour will gain 55 seats are they really going to pull the plug? It would be ironic if we had a Labour minority government with  the support of SF. (Corbyn is one of the few UK politicians they might trust enough to drop their longstanding boycott of Westminster and the offer of a border poll might be sufficient to tempt them). A Labour/SNP deal might be possible also.

It seems the NI public are far less concerned than the DUP by special status and according to a recent QUB poll there was acceptance about an Irish Sea border:

Surprisingly, willingness to accept such controls was stronger among Leave voters (64 per cent agreed), supporters of unionist parties (59 per cent) and Protestants (54 per cent). We might put this down to a willingness to live with east-west border controls as the price of getting Brexit across the line. Lower levels of agreement from Remain voters (44 per cent), nationalist party supporters (47 per cent) and Catholics (43 per cent) probably reflect hostility to any kind of new border controls.

So an interesting few days in store.

In all the noise and bluster from the UK press it is easy to forget that the EU will not formally talk about a future trading relationship until the UK has actually left the EU. A very good summary on the real state of play is on Tom Hayes BEEERG Brexit Blog and the eventual trade deal will have to be ratified by the EU27 and Wallonia, for example, who famously delayed the Canadian trade deal, as Hayes points out.

A country like Ireland may even consider that the deal would have to be ratified by referendum to establish the “will of the people”. Funny thing this “will of the people” stuff. Apparently it is not just limited to the UK and other people in other countries might have other “wills”.

That would be irony indeed.


  1. Geoff Plant -

    We were speculating what Theresa May had for lunch.

    I think it could have been Irish stew followed by Eton Mess or a Classic fudge. with Irish coffee to finish

    1. Peter May -

      Love it!

  2. Peter May -

    A Labour minority governement might allow them to make difficult compromises!
    As I understand it a ‘free’ border with reciprocal regulations in Ireland will, under – never mind EU regulations but also WTO regulations – necessitate the same regulations at Dover/ Calais.
    France and Ireland are, unsurprisingly regarded as the same EU border.
    So the PM’s proposal is in fact a soft – almost no – Brexit everywhere.
    Great – but she may not survive. I’m beginning to believe she may have a sense of duty (though it appears, basically not for the poor/disadvantaged).

    1. Sean Danaher -

      Yes it looks as if the deal is scuppered by the DUP. Unsurprisingly Scotland and London want the same deal and Wales apparently too.

      It is a good point regarding WTO rules which the Brexiteers choose to ignore in that you can’t give any country preferential treatment.

      I don’t agree with Brexit, but had it been meticulously planned over a decade then the outcome might have not been that much worse than being in the EU. As it stands it is a shambles. (Though JRM would mock me for using that word).

  3. Peter May -

    Saw a lovely comment on twitter from ‘Wayne in Basildon’:
    “I’ve solved Brexit everyone. Anyone that voted Brexit gets a blue passport, their freedom of movement curtailed and free kippers. The rest of us will carry on as normal.”
    Brexit is being shown up as a waste of everyone’s time. Now we know it doesn’t work I think there needs to be another referendum!

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