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Ireland's difficulty becomes England's opportunity
According to the well-known model created by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, the first three stages of grief are denial, anger and bargaining. In their approach to Northern Ireland and the Irish Border, the Brexiteers have broadly followed this pattern.

First, clothing their naked indifference in wilful ignorance, they denied that the problem existed at all. Next, they resorted to anger at the bloody Irish, the perpetual disturbers of the British peace without whom Brexit would have been, as promised, the easiest deal in the history of the world. And now we are at the bargaining stage.

But there is a dramatic twist: the bargaining is not so much about Northern Ireland. It is bargaining with Northern Ireland. The sheer cynicism of what is going on is so breathtaking that it is hard to credit and thus easy to miss.

The British approach to Brexit has been so chaotic that it has seemed silly to look for method in the madness. In relation to the Irish dimension of Brexit, we've become inured to magical thinking (the wonderful efficacy of not-yet-invented technological solutions), blithe misapprehension and sheer fatuousness (Boris Johnson's insistence that the Border is just like that between two London boroughs).

This has been oddly comforting. Since this stuff is so evidently childish, we can wait for the adults to enter the room.

But the comfort is false. The adults did enter the room. The Brexit negotiations are now in the hands of serious, skilful professional mandarins. And they've done something remarkable with the Irish Question. Remarkable in that it takes some nerve even to contemplate it.

For what it comes down to is a strategy of using the human suffering of the Troubles to try to extract a favourable post-Brexit trade deal from the EU. You have to be very clever to think of trying this - and utterly shameless.

Essentially what Fintan O'Toole is arguing that the British position is to force the EU to concede the benefits of the Customs Union and Single Market membership without the responsibilities, as the only way to ensure there isn't a hard customs border in N. Ireland.

The EU have been prepared to concede this for N. Ireland as a special case, because it is relatively small in the context of the EU as a whole, and because of the special historical circumstances surrounding it.

However the EU has not been prepared to concede this for the UK as a whole, or even just for industrial products as opposed to services, thus creating a need for customs controls somewhere between Great Britain and the EU.

Worse, from Theresa May's point of you, most in her own party have rejected her Chequers proposals as well, as turning the UK into a "rule taker" and vassal state of the EU.

Hence the impasse, with the DUP standing in the way of the obvious solution.

It is really quite something to seek now, in the midst of a self-inflicted crisis of authority in Britain, to turn the North's suffering and the EU's care for it to advantage. The dead are surely not to be bargained with.

The next stage in the grieving process after bargaining is depression. Perhaps we are moving into it now, for it is deeply depressing to find what is still in many ways a great country giving way to such cynicism.

It is a reminder that the damage from Brexit is not just economic or political. It is also moral.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Sep 23rd, 2018 at 11:38:28 AM EST

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