John Downing: ‘Amid confusion and disunity, the UK hurtles on towards calamity’


John Downing: ‘Amid confusion and disunity, the UK hurtles on towards calamity’


British Prime Minister Theresa May. Photo: Yui Mok/PA Wire
British Prime Minister Theresa May. Photo: Yui Mok/PA Wire

Just when you think you’ve got your head around the many facets of this Brexit mess, yet another twist lands.

David Trimble, sometime Unionist leader, is using his legal training to challenge the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement in court. He argues that the backstop breaches the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. In what looks like a direct contradiction of Dublin’s view, the 1998 joint Nobel Peace Prize winner wants it out of the document.

That one could take a while, but more immediately you will hear a lot more about the dreary preparations for a no-deal Brexit. In Dublin today, that issue will be raised at Cabinet with memos on preparations expected to be brought by Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe and Transport Minister Shane Ross.

It’s understood Mr Ross will tell colleagues about big changes needed at Dublin and Rosslare ports. There is also a high-powered EU Commission delegation in Dublin talking to the Government about preparations for the extreme outcome of a no-deal Brexit.

Here we can expect warnings about no soft deals for the UK authorities. Already there have been signals from Brussels that the commission fears France and the Netherlands may go too easy on the UK to serve their own practical needs.

At the same time, the UK Prime Minister Theresa May will be in Belfast trying to calm things. It again suggests that her thoughts on political progress are more often focused on going somewhere rather than addressing the real issue.

That is the need to forge cross-party consensus in the British house of parliament and avoid the huge calamity that will be a no-deal Brexit. The warnings from business interests in the UK are becoming more shrill and stark.

But the shilly-shallying in London continues. Mrs May continues to focus on trying to keep her fractured Conservative Party together and somehow keep the Democratic Unionist Party tagging along. She briefly appeared to do this last week – but to no political effect.

All signals from Brussels are that this one is going nowhere very fast. Mrs May’s hope she can replace the Irish backstop with a high-tech cyber-border are not flying.

In Ireland, the Border at Carrickcarnan, in Co Louth – whose vicinity saw much violence and tension over the decades – saw a flying visit from the Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok, with a welcome message of solidarity.

But Ireland remains under severe pressure. Seven weeks from next Friday, B-Day is due to dawn.

Irish Independent


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