You’ve probably heard the moaning minnies. They say we’re not making enough progress in the Brexit negotiations. Some even say we’re not making any progress. Can you believe it? Pish-tosh. There have been two major movements in UK-EU negotiations. One happened last December and the other happened last Friday.
In December, the UK and the EU agreed on three options for our own dear north-eastern nest (NEN).
Under the terms of the first option, all of the UK would stay within the EU customs union and single market. That would of course mean that our NEN, as an integral part of the UK, would also stay within the EU customs union and the single market. So trade and movement of peoples on the island of Ireland would continue pretty much as they have done since the Good Friday Agreement.
The second option was that there would be a north-south border in Ireland, but it would be an invisible border that wouldn’t impede north/south or south/north trade. Some moaning minnies muttered about how this would work but we can disregard them. They always moan.
The third option was that the UK might leave the customs union and the single market, but our NEN would stay in the customs union and the single market, and trade south and north and vice versa would continue as it is at present. Our NEN effectively would have special status, and the border between the EU and the UK – can you believe it? – would be in the middle of the Irish Sea.
Fast forward to Friday 2 March. Our prime minister Theresa May set out clearly the situation regarding the EU and our dear little NEN.
She started by looking at Option Three – the back-stop, as some call it. This, some claimed, would operate if Options One and Two weren’t successful. Now we all know that the UK and the EU both signed up to all three options. But our Prime Minister Theresa May didn’t allow that to handicap her. The very notion of Option Three, she said, was unthinkable. It wasn’t just her – NO British Prime Minister could agree to such an option – it would threaten the integrity of the UK, so it was OUT. (If that sounds familiar, it is how the blessed Margaret Thatcher dealt with people who tried to tinker with the constitutional position of our NEN.)
And clearly Option One is equally a non-starter. Our Prime Minister has made it clear that, come hell or high water, she is taking the UK out of the customs union and the single market. And where the UK goes, our NEN goes. Yes, Mrs May signed up to Option One as well, but that doesn’t matter. It isn’t going to happen, so you can stop moaning.
Our enemies, of course, will accuse us – the UK – of bad faith. They’ll say that the Prime Minister has signed up to two options which she has now disowned. Bad faith? Pish-tosh. This is what is known as diplomacy. If the Prime Minister of the day hadn’t shown diplomacy, we’d have been forced to introduce an Irish Language Act just because we signed up to it in the St Andrew’s Agreement. And what a disaster that would have been, if it had been introduced: our children forced to wear a piece of wood around their neck, with a notch for every time they were heard speak English – their own native language! Thanks be to Heaven and good old British diplomacy, that wasn’t followed through on either.
So what are we left with? Why, Option Two. An invisible border. All we need are number recognition plates and drones and all the marvelous technology we have nowadays. We’ll be safely out of the tyrannous EU and yet able to trade freely with the country to the south of us. It will be seamless, it will be soft, it will be as painless as the brush of a gossamer’s wing.
But don’t expect the moaning minnies to tell you that. Or to mention the terrific trade deals we’ll have with China and Brazil and, yes, the United States. You just watch – as the moaning minnies sink beneath the waves, the SS British diplomacy will carve the water. Aye aye, Cap’n May. Full steam ahead.