Tuesday 8 October 2019

It has come down to a choice: No Brexit or Brexit with No Deal

It is clear now that there will be no deal between the UK and the EU that involves customs or other checks on the British border with the Republic of Ireland.

Therefore there will be no deal.

This is the decision of the Irish Government, which the EU supports.

No deal will hurt everyone, but it is a consolation that it will hurt the Irish Republic more than any other country.

Perhaps there never was any possible deal that did not leave Northern Ireland in a
customs union with the EU and we were all misled by Theresa May.

In an interview shortly after his resignation from Theresa May’s cabinet on 15 November 2018, Dominic Raab, who had been Britain’s Brexit Secretary and is now Foreign Secretary, said: “There were certainly swirling dark forces in the commission, which you would hear rumbling that Northern Ireland was the price the United Kingdom must pay for leaving the EU…  The trail always seems to lead back to Martin Selmayr.”

The backstop was unacceptable unless time-limited. In fact, I believe that Eire would never have allowed the UK to get rid of the Backstop. Why should they have done so?

But it seemed otherwise a few weeks ago when Angela Merkel told Donald Tusk that a deal must be found that Boris could agree to.

Since then the Benn Act became law and Boris’ lost the power credibly to threaten to leave with no deal, though paradoxically the chances of his doing so are higher than ever.

The other very big news is the long text message (SMS) sent to James Forsyth of the Spectator by an anonymous “contact inside No. 10” whose prose style suggests it is Dominic Cummings, Boris’s Svengali.

Please read the whole thing, if you have five minutes.

Anonymous says 

"The negotiations will probably end this week. Varadkardoesn’t want to negotiate. Varadkar was keen on talking before theBenn Act when he thought that the choice would be ‘new deal or nodeal’. Since the Benn Act passed he has gone very cold and in the lastweek the official channels and the backchannels have also gone cold.Varadkar has also gone back on his commitments — he said if we movedon manufactured goods then he would also move but instead he justattacked us publicly. It’s clear he wants to gamble on a secondreferendum and that he’s encouraging Barnier to stick to the line thatthe UK cannot leave the EU without leaving Northern Ireland behind."

He adds that if Boris’s suggested deal is rejected then the Tories
will fight an election on a no-deal ticket. 

“We’ll either leave with no deal on 31 October or there will be an election and then we will leave with no deal.”

Reading between the lines they hope Hungary will veto a further delay to Brexit and slice the Gordian knot.

Theresa May made so many mistakes and gave away so many positions. Her worst mistake was when, at the start of her premiership, she agreed with Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny in September 2016 to find “creative and imaginative” ways to deal with customs checks. 

This was not wrong in itself but she was reported to having agreed to no hard border, meaning a border without checks.

Speaking after a meeting at 10 Downing Street the Taoiseach said that he spoke for both when he said, 

“A hard border in normal circumstances means customs posts and customs checks in various places. There will be no return to the hard border between the Republic and Northern Ireland of the past, which included towers and military equipment, obviously for different reasons. So I do not favour, I do not agree to a hard border, with a whole range of customs posts, and neither does the prime minister.”

I was persuaded by customs experts in Dublin who said customs checks could be made remotely by electronic means. But now I see that if this were true why do Sweden and Norway not do something of the sort and why does no border in the world use these means of avoiding customs checks? Instead, even though Norway is in the single market, in Schengen, accepts free movement of citizens of EU member states  and has close regulatory alignment with the EU, lorries wait around twenty minutes at the border.

In a phone call between Boris Johnson and Angela Merkel this morning, she is said to have said that ‘a deal is overwhelmingly unlikely’ because ‘the UK cannot leave without leaving Northern Ireland behind in a customs union forever’. 

But did she say it or is the British government trying to place the blame for the breakdown of talks on her?

The British Government no longer needs the DUP because it no longer has anywhere near a majority, but it will never in effect leave part of the country in the EU when it leaves. So, though there may well be a delay to Brexit and a general election, if the Tories win this will very probably mean the UK leaving without a deal. This is because Boris does not want to lose votes to Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party.

The polls suggest the Tories will win, but nobody believes the polls after what happened in 2015, 2016 and 2017. If they do so they will be running against the grain of recent history. Just as the Irish Home Rule Party made the UK's two party system a three party system from 1886 to 1918, the Scottish National Party has done the same thing starting with its landslide Scottish victory in 2015. 

In Scotland the 2014 referendum on independence completely remade the political landscape. The 2016 Brexit referendum looks likely to do the same for the whole of the UK, from Londonderry to Thurrock and Ramsgate.


  1. AHHH I see all the more reason for Ireland to become one united country ... that has nothing to do with Britain...

  2. Given that Ireland is now a post-Christian nation so the Catholic-Protestant divide is no longer relevant isn't likely that within a generation Ireland will be unified? So maybe it's not worth people's while fussing so much about the Irish border thing.

    1. The Catholic-Protestant divide is an ethnic one more than a religious one. I remember telling someone at university that you cannot understand the history of N Ireland unless you understand the history of Eastern Europe, in those days an obscure part of the world to Cambridge men. I meant it is two ethnic groups living side by side and unhappily which is the background to Eastern Europe until it was tidied up in a Procrustean way.

      What is important is that culturally the Republic is no longer Catholic and that Catholics in the North still increase as a proportion of the population and may overtake Protestants.

    2. In the 2011 census for the first time, the proportion of the population declaring themselves as Protestant or brought up Protestant fell below 50 per cent and only two of the six counties, Antrim and Down, now have clear Protestant majorities” and only one – Lisburn – of its five cities. According to a report this year “Within a decade, Belfast will almost certainly have a Catholic majority” and majority Protestant Northern Ireland “is now restricted to the suburban area surrounding Belfast.”

    3. What is important is that culturally the Republic is no longer Catholic and that Catholics in the North still increase as a proportion of the population and may overtake Protestants.

      Are the Protestants in Ireland still Christian in any meaningful sense?

      Europeans seem to be looking forward to their future as rootless cosmopolitans, with no ethnic identity, no religion and no culture (well they'll have American culture which is pretty much the same as having no culture). Within a generation I can't imagine the Irish northern or southern caring about the ethnic differences.

      It's very depressing.