North Korea and the Irish border

It’s easy to get bogged down in the details of Brexit, isn’t it? Should Britain stay in the customs union, should she stay in the single market, what about the north of Ireland, should Britain model herself on Canada, maybe Norway? The different issues whirl around and around in one’s head until you get to the point where you say “Ach, forget it. Let them sort it out – my head hurts.”

So with the welfare of your head in mind, let’s try a simpler path. Let’s talk briefly about North Korea. (No, Virginia, my head has not exploded. Pay attention and you will see.) In January 2003, North Korea withdrew from the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. Why? Because the nuclear non-proliferation treaty says that signatories will not manufacture nuclear weapons and North Korea was busily manufacturing just that. So North Korea quit.

Now consider Theresa May. On 8 December 2017, the British prime minister agreed to three options, the third of which was the ‘back-stop’ option. That third option said that the north of Ireland would effectively operate as a member of the EU, even if the rest of the UK did not. Theresa May didn’t whisper this into Michel Barnier’s ear: the agreement was publicly announced, printed in the papers, read in the main TV news bulletins.

On Thursday last, Theresa May told the House of Commons that no British prime minister could ever agree to such an arrangement, and was greeted with cries of “Hear, hear!”. Theresa May didn’t preface her remark with the news that Britain was withdrawing from the agreement it had reached with the EU on 8 December 2017. She ignored that bit. Instead, she calmly announced that she was going to do the opposite from what she’d promised.

People sometimes talk about rogue states. If we are to believe the Americans and many other countries, North Korea is a rogue state. But North Korea at least had the common sense to see that you couldn’t be part of a nuclear non-proliferation treaty and at the same time be busy manufacturing nuclear weapons.

There’s only one conclusion we can come to, and it’s one that shouldn’t simply be dismissed with a shrug of the shoulders and a sigh of “Perfidious Albion”: Theresa May is acting in a more dishonest way than Kim Jong-un’s da.

Sam Goldwyn believed a verbal agreement wasn’t worth the paper it was written on. Theresa May has proved that a written agreement with Britain is as useful as a eunuch at a sperm bank.

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