It’s getting near, isn’t it? October, that is – we’re heading towards the latter part of July, which leaves August, September, October. That’s it. Three months to solve the Brexit brain-teaser.
In matters of this kind, there’s a great temptation to deceive ourselves, because to face up to the reality is too scary. That’s what has happened with regard to our hard border/soft border thing. In December last, Theresa May wrote a letter giving her commitment to a backstop – that is, no change in the present border set-up in Ireland. And the months passed and still it wasn’t put in legal form. Gradually, it was seen as reasonable for Nigel Dodds to stand up in the British House of Commons and ask reassurance about the back-stop from Theresa May: that is, reassurance that there’d be no border in the Irish Sea. Mrs May was very happy to reassure him. See what Nigel did there?
Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney have stressed the backstop and its importance to Ireland: that is, the backstop that results in no change in border arrangements in Ireland. Great expectations, you could call it.
So with three short months to go, perhaps it’s time to call a spade a bloody shovel.
At the moment all of Ireland is within the EU, so the border is of little or no consequence. At the end of March the north of Ireland, as part of the UK, will (despite its wishes) leave the EU. The south of Ireland will stay in the EU. So that means part of Ireland will be in the EU, and the north-east part will be outside the EU, along with the rest of the UK. The only other possibility is to treat the north of Ireland as a special case with a special status that would leave it for all intents and purposes in the EU. You might say “Or you could have the border in the Irish Sea” and you’d be right, except the DUP have set their faces against this and Theresa May backs them up.
In short , the famous backstop is about as much use as a fifth hind tit on an EU dairy cow in Monaghan, because the DUP don’t want special advantages that don’t apply to the rest of the UK, and the Tory government is in hock to the DUP.
It’s time we stopped codding ourselves. Brexit is coming and the backstop was a lie. As the witch in Macbeth prophesied: “By the pricking of my thumbs/Something wicked this way comes.”