John Downing: ‘Brexit struggles onwards – but it will eventually be to our benefit’
By now I know many ‘Brexit junkies’. They are among the people who love their politics and additionally gripped by the Westminster recurring drama, garnished by many people’s star in these islands, John Bercow, the Ceann Comhairle, or Speaker as termed on the adjoining island; he of “order, order” global fame.
Brexit is also wearying and poses a solution for every problem going round and round in a loop. Theresa May’s Brexit deal has been thrice denied – yet she astonishingly persists as Prime Minister.
The UK parliament took control for a time. But then gave it back again. Significantly Mrs May reached out to the UK Labour Party. But she insisted she could not erase her “red lines” – leaving the customs union and single market.
Early yesterday, EU leaders agreed to delay the UK’s date of departure by nearly six months to October 31. This date can be brought forward if the UK ratifies a withdrawal deal before then.
The overall point is that is a delay but it very far from a solution.
The date was a compromise between France, which wanted a short extension to June 30, and almost all the other 27 member states, who wanted up to a year. Mrs May herself formally asked for an extension to June 30, in full knowledge that she needed far longer than that.
Thus, October 31, 2019 is a short-term fix. It provides 26 weeks of breathing space in the super-charged Brexit world.
Cynics immediately suggested the UK got a six-month extension which would ultimately lead to another hefty extension next autumn.
Yesterday even the Confederation of British Industry insisted the possibility of a no-deal Brexit in six months – or even as soon as June 1 – still looms. All Irish cannot unwind their contingency planning, wearing though this is.
The big problem is that six months’ delay is not enough to find a solution. It is not long enough to hold a UK referendum.
It may not even be long enough for the UK Conservatives to change leader. Theresa May is even weaker after the week’s events with her party.
We revert again, as always to London-London talks which have very belatedly kicked off some three years too late. As always, this one could land anywhere.
Much of this poses big dilemmas for us in Ireland, But it is clear that the UK, our nearest neighbour and biggest trading partner, is gone from the European Union for some decades at least.
It all brings us back to January 1973 when UK, Denmark, and Ireland joined the then European Economic Community. It was a different journey for all three countries.
Now, as Brexit drags on, we find that Ireland faces the biggest challenge in 40 years.
There are few, if any, immediate positives in Brexit. But, eventually, it can be to our benefit.