The Irish government has made a bold and daring move. It has said that the next round of EU-UK talks cannot go forward unless the UK guarantees that under no circumstances will there be a hard border on the island of Ireland. In theory, this shouldn’t be tricky given the UK government has assured everyone throughout all the bluster that this will be the case. However, this impediment to talks erected by Leo Varadkar, the Irish Taoiseach, sort of calls their bluff on this, as in reality there are only two real options for the UK if it wishes to avoid a hard Irish border: either the UK remains in the Customs Union, or Northern Ireland is allowed to stay in the Customs Union. The first item would mean that the UK couldn’t strike any trade deals of its own, and besides, the government has ruled it out completely over and over again; the second would bring down the government, as the DUP would never, ever go for this option, as it basically unites Ireland in all but name.
This has caused the Brexiteers to go nuts. They have accused the Irish of the lowest treachery, in some of the worst instances of this laying bare the underlying notion amongst many of them that Ireland isn’t a real country; that not acting as Britain’s little brother, fighting our corner, is completely out of order. Can’t we bloody well kick them out of the Commonwealth or something? Oh, right, they already left of their own free will. You know, became a republic, i.e., a real country by anyone’s reckoning. Or maybe not anyone’s, judging by this week.
So, the question I have is this: shouldn’t the “no deal” Brexiteers be loving all this, cracking out the champagne as a direct result? Not seething with rage about it all? After all, rumour had it that May was about to get out the chequebook, allowing the transition to hover into view, replete with all the trimmings they despise: freedom of movement, EU laws still being accepted as they come hot off the Brussels’ press – even the dreaded ECJ holding court over us all. Varadkar’s move makes that all less likely. For instance, what if one of them had said this:
“The Irish Taoiseach has acted in what he clearly feels is Ireland’s best interests this week. Our own prime minister should take Mr Varadkar’s lead and act in Britain’s best interests by seeing this as the latest, surest sign that achieving a deal with the European Union is going to prove impossible. When even our closest historical cousin is putting up barriers, isn’t it time to throw in the towel and simply leave on our own terms?”
This would have been both closer to their supposed beliefs as well as being a better PR job than the “how dare these jumped potato farmers defy Britain’s will?” shtick of the last few days. Maybe they don’t really believe a “no deal” is a good idea after all?