Yesterday was a remarkable day. As part of the Brexit process, a deal seemed imminent and then the UK, once a beacon of political stability, completely humiliated itself yet again.
First, the actual issue. The 1998 Belfast “Good Friday” Agreement creates, under Strand 2, cross-border bodies and defines areas for cross-border cooperation, such as food safety and energy. As Ireland cannot unilaterally change its regulations and standards around these issues because it is bound by EU laws and rules, this means that Northern Ireland has to align its to the EU’s to enable the cross-border cooperation to continue. Add that to a reasonably comprehensive trade deal and, with regard to customs, you remove the need for all but the odd spot check at the actual frontier and a few elsewhere thus maintaining a relatively frictionless border. Reason prevails. Deal.
Secondly, though, of course with Brexit reason never prevails. Brexit is a profoundly unreasonable thing. And so, of course, it didn’t. Oh no, says a party which commands a third of a vote in a part of the UK with under 3% of the population, you cannot possibly be reasonable. Oh no, say Scottish Nationalists, you cannot just do this for one part of the Kingdom. Oh, and by the way, says the London Mayor, we quite fancy a bit of this “differential Brexit” too… This is all about nationalistic grandstanding which must then be matched by regional grandstanding. As with Brexit itself, compromise collapses and madness prevails.
It is astonishing that the Prime Minister did not consult the party on which she relies for a majority in advance (and I believe it is as simple as that). It is remarkable too that she seemed unaware of the constitutional implications elsewhere, even within England. That just shows how inept she is. If you trust her to negotiate a trade deal with China when she cannot even negotiate a customs deal with, er, the UK, you too have lost all sense of reason.
By the way, as for the argument that Northern Ireland cannot be separated from the UK… this is the same DUP which has maintained separate libel laws to protect its own representatives, separate party donor laws to protect its own funders, and even instituted a separate boiler scheme… to say nothing of basic social rights it denies citizens here which have long existed in Britain. So let us hear no more bleating about “separation” from the very party which keeps us separate.
The actual solution, of course, is for the whole of the UK to stay in the same customs area as the rest of the EU. But then, the actual solution is for the whole of the UK to stay in the EU. The people may have expressed their will – but it was based on a false and unreasonable prospectus. And that really should be the end of it.