Politics

There Is No Possible Brexit Deal – Daniel Kay

Photo by James Giddins on Unsplash

Does anyone understand what’s happening with Brexit?

Not even the UK Parliament seems unable to understand the reality of the choice the EU’s biggest economy currently faces.

There are two simple options:

  • Britain will leave the EU without a deal (a.k.a “No Deal Brexit”)
  • The UK will never leave the EU

These are the only options remaining. Although the UK Parliament recently voted to make it “illegal” to leave the EU without a deal, they themselves have refused to approve the only deal possible.

British lawmakers are still pretending a better deal is possible, when anyone who has dedicated a few moments to think about the problems realises: there is no “better deal.”

Boris Johnson seems the only man willing to speak the truth: the UK leaves on October 31, with no deal, or it will remain in the European Union indefinitely.

A useful map showing the proposed “Irish Backstop — a “soft border” consisting of sea checks. Notice how this isolates Northern Ireland from the three other regions of the UK: Scotland, England, and Wales.

The UK has exactly one land border with EU countries: the border between Northern Ireland (part of the UK, included in Brexit), and the Republic of Ireland (an independent country which will remain part of the EU).

Ireland is divided because of religious differences: the Northern part is generally inhabited by Protestant Christians, while the rest of the country is Catholic. During the 1970s, ’80s, and ‘90s, these two Irish factions fought a low-grade civil war, which resulted in the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland becoming heavily fortified. This period was known as “The Troubles”.

(The Netflix Series “Derry Girls” is set during this time period).

When the Troubles came to an end, the border was demilitarised and removed. This was a big symbol of Irish unity and peace. No one in Ireland or the UK wants to re-establish that border.

(Total Irish re-unification is off the table for political reasons we don’t have the space to go into here)

Photo by Lāsma Artmane on Unsplash

Free movement of people and goods is a core tenet of the European Union. EU citizens can go from country to country without passport checks, and merchants can legally sell their goods in any country within the bloc. Wanting to stop this immigration was a big dog-whistle used by pro-Brexit campaigners. Securing UK borders is a non-negotiable part of Brexit.

Under EU law, any EU citizen can enter the Republic of Ireland without security checks of any sort. And it’s only a few hours drive from Dublin (in Ireland) to Belfast (in Northern Ireland)…

Any thinking person will easily see: the UK cannot exit the free market without establishing some form of border in Ireland. It’s impossible.

The Backstop

Former British PM Theresa May spent months negotiating a very detailed withdrawal agreement with the EU headquarters in Brussels. She did not manage to solve the Irish border issue. Instead, she proposed a “temporary” solution which involves, basically, the UK remaining in the EU single market until some genius somewhere finds out how to build a border between the two Irelands, without building a border.

This is called “The Irish Backstop,” and it’s beena horrifically unpopular idea with just about all UK political parties. Critics are afraid (rightfully so), that since it has no time limit, the backstop will essentially keep the UK forced to follow EU trade rules forever — but without many of the benefits of formal membership.

This wasn’t even a proper proposal — it was put forth as a stopgap measure that could be used while a more permanent solution was discussed.

Photo by Svetlana Gumerova on Unsplash

Prior to proposing this “temporary” backstop, British politicians had been discussing Brexit for two and a half years already. They were unwilling to do the hard work of coming up with a compromise. They were unwilling to accept a compromise. Everyone wants everything, and both sides proved willing to sink the country if they didn’t get their way.

Without a border, the UK cannot and will not exit the common market. Physically, it cannot work.

If people and goods from the EU are allowed into Ireland, and people in Ireland are allowed into Northern Ireland, and people from Northern Ireland are allowed to freely move to other parts of the UK, by simple transitive property, the UK will still be trapped in the EU common market. A border is physically necessary, but politically impossible.

UK Parliament rejected May’s deal three times, saying the backstop was unacceptable. But no one had a better idea. That was six months ago, and still, no one has a better idea.

Current British PM Boris Johnson realised this, which is why he set a hard deadline for Brexit. If the parliament insists on negotiating a deal which “solves” the Irish border to everyone’s satisfaction, Brexit will never happen.

The press has had a field day taking the mickey out of Boris Johnson for his bullish focus on trying to guarantee a No-Deal exit on October 31. Johnson, with his naked ambition and Trumplike passion for goofy antics, is an easy target. But he’s actually the only sensible actor in this situation.

Parliament has made its opposition to leaving without a deal very clear. They have, in fact, passed legislation that attempts to BAN the PM from allowing a No Deal Brexit. They want a deal. But they rejected previous Prime Minister Theresa May’s deal THREE TIMES, despite clear assurances from both a beleaguered May and EU diplomats in Brussels that no better deal was forthcoming. They have failed, for years now, to negotiate anything resembling a coherent deal or strategy.

May, an iron lady in her own way, was forced to resign near tears, finally broken by politicians that refused to acknowledge reality.

The EU, meanwhile, has been re-allocating emergency funding and preparing for the bureaucratic and diplomatic migraine that’s sure to follow a No-Deal Brexit.

No matter who they elect: the Brexit party led by Nigel Farage or the Labour party led by Jeremy Corbyn or any number of other middle-of-the-road people promising compromise, the problem will not change.

Famously indirect, the Brits would do well to face their problem head on and hold a public referendum. Cut through the impossible promises of politicians, and the rhetoric of “a better deal” which no one will get, and simply ask the population:

  • Do you want to leave the European Union without any trade deal?
  • Should the United Kingdom remain in the European Union?

Because, quite simply, there are no other options.


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