After May’s Florence speech, some Brexiteers have become a little miffed. Not enough to actually do anything about it like, say, bringing down a lame duck prime minister and installing one of their own in Number 10, but you know, still a wee bit peeved as these things go. For those of you out there confused as to why Brexit is taking so long; why May is pursuing this transitional deal and no longer threatening to walk away with no deal, for instance, I’ll break this down in the simplest way I can. For while there are many complexities that abound here, I can just stick to the very basics and still illustrate for you why Brexit is now so tricky for the Conservative Party.
Theresa May did something extremely hubristic earlier this year: she triggered Article 50 and then called a general election, one that subsequently lost her the majority her predecessor had earned. For ease, this is a bit like declaring war on the shareholders of your father’s company after inheriting the majority of the shares and then going on a massive bender during which you start giving your shares out for free on EBay, which are then snapped up by your greatest foes that you have just been mean to. All while setting a bomb to go off in your house in two years time should you not get your majority shareholding back, of course.
As a direct result of this, in order to continue her spell in Number 10 Theresa May had to do a deal with the Democratic Unionists of Northern Ireland. Now, the DUP are a pretty conservative bunch who have no love lost for the IRA loving Jeremy Corbyn, so easy peasy, right? In the normal run of things, maybe, but Brexit adds a wrinkle to put it mildly. See, the DUP are cool with there being a Tory government so long as Brexit brings with it no changes in the way the island of Ireland currently operates – and they are pretty strict about what constitutes “no changes” on this one.
What this means is that if “no deal” is in place between the UK and the EU by late 2018, the EU will treat the border in Ireland as an external one and border posts go up. The DUP brings down the government and there is a general election. The economy wobbles and the Tories have to fight another general election with May as leader. Corbyn gets to run against a Conservative Party that has run an EU referendum then screwed up the Brexit negotiations leading directly to the economy crashing and the Northern Ireland peace process becoming heavily endangered. I am amongst the most sceptical of people who write about this sort of thing in regards to Corbyn’s ability to win the next general election, but even I know Corbyn would win in those circumstances.
Everyone on the EU Commission knows this as well as the vast majority of the current UK cabinet. To make this really simple: “no deal” would annihilate the government and bring on a Corbyn led one instead. At some point Tory Brexiteers will have to choose between what they fear more, Brexit being softened or Corbyn in Number 10. It is notable that I can’t predict which of those they would choose.