Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
Why should British people care about a border in Ireland, or one down the Irish sea for that matter. It will, quite literally make no difference to them, unless it leads to a return of IRA terrorism on the "mainland". This is only a major issue because the DUP have made it so, and May is also ideologically committed to the "Union".

It is the UK government, at the behest of the DUP, which has sought to leverage the border issue as a means to leverage a deal from the EU whereby the whole of the UK can remain, at least temporarily, within the Customs Union, thereby angering both Brexiteers and Remainers, and leaving the EU27 queasy about the implications.

But as Newton Emerson asks:

What is the point of being inside the EU's customs union but outside its single market?

That is the proposition UK prime minister Theresa May is about to try and sell to her cabinet, parliament and the country: a UK-wide backstop to ensure there is no hard border in Ireland should the UK and the EU not agree a trade deal after Brexit.

Many within her Conservative Party and beyond believe the backstop likely to come into effect, and will be permanent if it does.


May's backstop is essentially the Turkey option, which few have ever seriously advocated. Turkey cannot strike trade deals, yet still faces non-tariff barriers to EU markets - the worst of both worlds for a Brexit sold on a free-trade vision.

Although Labour and the Conservatives have reasons for wanting out of the single market in particular, both find those reasons awkward to promote.

The Conservatives want to be seen to have regained control of immigration - this is said to be May's personal bottom line. Labour wants the freedom to nationalise and subsidise industry. Each cause is too flawed and contentious to justify an overall Brexit policy. So instead, both parties are implying they want to leave the EU in its entirety but might have to stay in the customs union to avoid a hard border in Ireland.

This is no way to sell the English a Turkey. Surveys consistently show a majority of Brexit voters, overwhelmingly in England, would ditch Northern Ireland for a full EU departure - not a sentiment Westminster can disregard for ever.

Officially the British government is aiming for a Border solution that will allow the whole UK, including Northern Ireland, to leave the customs union and the single market. But there are doubts that this can ever be practical. If the choice comes down to an unpopular UK-wide backstop or a "proper" Brexit, Northern Ireland will be cast adrift - consigned to the backstop to the backstop, whatever that turns out to be in any withdrawal agreement.

The DUP already smell a rat.

I told you so months ago...

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Nov 9th, 2018 at 08:10:29 PM EST
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