Wed Nov 7th, 2018 at 02:32:54 PM EST
More below the fold ...
Brexit Diaries 48: Abandon all hope | DW |
As diplomats have long feared, the problem turned out to be the most intractable of all Brexit issues. The EU had proposed that Northern Ireland stay close to its regulations, so there would be no need for border controls. The Unionist DUP, who support May's Conservatives in Parliament, howled with fury because the party could never ever accept a regulatory diversion from all-British rules. After many rounds of talks the two sides seemed to have found another possible solution. This would be to keep the entire UK in a customs union until the two sides had settled their future relationship.
What seemed reasonable has, however, now become impossible. At a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, May was forced to declare she would not close a Brexit deal "at any cost." Clearly the cost is too high for her Brexiteers, who want at best a time limited customs union, or to be able to leave it at any time. No can do, says Dublin, because an insurance policy for our border with a time limit would not be worth the paper it's written on. We're starting from square one again.
No new cabinet meeting has been scheduled. Ministers will come together again only after what the PM calls "the best deal for Britain" has been reached. The continued stalemate scuppers May's plan to get a deal done this week. That's needed to call an EU summit for the end of November and push the whole thing through Parliament before Christmas. As the EU's chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, likes to say: "The clock is ticking."
Secret talks are going on in Brussels. But they now appear ever more similar to Dante's inferno: Abandon all hope ye who enter here...
Britain's arrogant attempts to hoodwink the EU have sacrificed all trust | The Guardian - Opinion |
When Ireland's foreign minister, Simon Coveney, tweeted on Sunday that Britain's calls for a time-limited or unilaterally breakable backstop "are not backstops at all and don't deliver on previous UK commitments", he echoed the frustration across the EU. The concern is not that the UK holds a different opinion, it is that it is reneging on the guarantees it has already made. As the negotiators brace themselves for a lock-in at the last-chance saloon, the underlying problem is less about the backstop than the EU's chronic lack of trust.
There is a reason why Britain is being dragged kicking and screaming from the backstop to the withdrawal agreement. Since the start of this process, our government has confirmed every European fear and British stereotype. The UK has sought to divide and rule, bypassing the European commission and playing member states off against one another; ceaselessly demanded unique privileges unavailable to either members or non-members; and continued to insist upon fantasy technology at the Irish border to prevent the return of all-too-real sectarian violence.
Our long reputation has always preceded us but, immediately after the referendum, the EU held out genuine hope that the government might behave reasonably. Certainly, Britain's official narrative centred around building goodwill and demonstrating good faith. But, in reality, Theresa May quickly compounded tactical errors with pointless offence. The 2016 "citizens of nowhere" conference speech horrified EU diplomats, who also objected to the threatening tone of the Lancaster House speech and Article 50 letter. In May 2017, the prime minister even accused "bureaucrats of Brussels" of meddling in the UK election. Boris Johnson's rhetoric about punishment beatings and whistling for money, and Jeremy Hunt's likening of the bloc to a Soviet prison did little to help.
The EU expected domestic Tory theatre, but ministers' hostile language has also bled into personal relationships.