Theresa May spoke in the House yesterday to update the Commons on what the Mansion House speech might mean in practice. In answer to an inevitable question regarding the Irish border, the Prime Minister said:
“There are many examples of different arrangements for customs around the rest of the world. Indeed we are looking at those, including for example the border between the United States and Canada.”
Now, first thing that needs to be said is that the US-Canada border is a very hard border. In fact, it is one of the hardest borders in the world. I’m not saying this because I googled it, incidentally – I have personally crossed that border hundreds of times, from the Point Roberts-British Columbia crossing in the far west, to Niagara Falls in the east. The closest thing to it is the North-South Korea border. I’m not exaggerating for effect here, it really is that hard; someone who has never travelled outside of Europe would find it something to behold. An immigration-customs check, with armed guards and police dogs; then, a sort of demilitarised zone so the helicopters can see anyone making a run for it, with all trees in the zone removed; followed by another strict immigration-customs check. If you put anything like it in Ireland, I can only imagine the reaction. Apart from a pogrom, it is hard to imagine a manoeuvre that would have the greatest possibility of reigniting the Troubles.
I waited with baited breath for the response from Corbyn, printed in the Guardian, this morning. Either Theresa May was making things up as she went along with the US-Canada border quip, meaning we’re almost a year on from triggering Article 50 and that’s how far behind everything is, or the government really is sizing up Ireland for a DMZ style border. Whichever it is, this is major.
But there’s been nothing from Corbyn, either yesterday or this morning. And no left of centre outlets have really covered the story in anything like the depth it deserves. Before his customs union speech, I would have at least partially understood why Corbyn handled it this way. But the whole thrust of that speech was Corbyn had a plan to supposedly solve the Irish border problem, while May didn’t. Then, May shows her cards in the most silly way on the subject – and, nothing.
In fact, the only UK paper that gave it anything like the coverage it warranted was the Daily Mail, the supposed mouthpiece of the government. If you want to know how out of step this is with reality, you should see the Irish papers this morning. They have taken the matter a wee bit more seriously.
My God, what is with the Left at present? Does it have no will at all to try and expose this government’s weaknesses, even when they are massive? It’s like the left of centre press has caught the same bugs as the right-wing press: only interested in a story involving the government if there is a soap opera element to it. What, the government is thinking of setting up a sort of DMZ in Ireland which contradicts everything they’ve told the people of the UK and the European Commission as well? Boooooring. What did Phil and Amber say about Bojo and JRM? Now that’s news!
If Theresa May can’t be called to rights on something like what she said yesterday about the Irish border, I think the Left should prepare themselves for another decade of Conservative government.