THE CON­SE­QUENCES OF AN IR­RE­SPON­SI­BLE BREXIT DEAL

Hindustan Times (Bathinda) - - Htthink! - MARK TULLY The views ex­pressed are per­sonal

Over the past four weeks I have been in Lon­don wit­ness­ing the spec­ta­cle of the two main po­lit­i­cal par­ties tear­ing them­selves apart as mem­bers of Par­lia­ment (MPS) dis­agree on Bri­tain’s exit from Europe.

I ar­rived in Lon­don on the evening the Con­ser­va­tive Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May was hu­mil­i­ated when many of her own MPS voted down her plan for the exit. The next day she re­cov­ered her author­ity when her party ral­lied be­hind her to de­feat a no-con­fi­dence mo­tion, but that was a brief demon­stra­tion of unity, which fell apart once the threat of an election was averted.

There­after May demon­strated that sturdy re­fusal to budge she has be­come fa­mous for. She wasn’t go­ing to post­pone Bri­tain’s exit. She wasn’t go­ing to agree to a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum. She wasn’t go­ing to rule out ex­it­ing with­out an agree­ment. Euro­pean lead­ers were equally stub­born say­ing there was no room for re­open­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions on the exit now that the deal was re­jected.

Then last week, the pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Union, Don­ald Tusk, put his oar into the muddy wa­ters of Brexit. Mak­ing the wa­ters even mud­dier he said: “There should be spe­cial places in hell for those who pro­moted Brexit with­out even a sketch of a plan how to carry it out safely.” That pro­voked out­rage with An­drea Lead­som, the leader of the Com­mons, de­scrib­ing the re­marks as “pretty un­ac­cept­able and pretty dis­grace­ful” and de­mand­ing an apol­ogy.

Out­ra­geous though, the Euro­pean Union pres­i­dent’s re­mark may have been undiplo­matic, they ap­pear to be his way of say­ing he re­gards Bri­tain as be­ing in a mess cre­ated by its politi­cians. At the same time he seems to be say­ing that Europe is not go­ing to help May pull Bri­tain out of that mess. He clearly sees the heart of the prob­lem as be­ing the ir­re­spon­si­bil­ity of the Brexit cam­paign.

The Con­ser­va­tive Brex­i­teers’ de­mand for a ref­er­en­dum on leav­ing the Euro­pean Union was ir­re­spon­si­ble from the start be­cause they never planned for the con­se­quences in case of a vic­tory. Their cam­paign dur­ing the ref­er­en­dum was marked by dem­a­gogy, slo­gans like “make Bri­tain great again”, lies like the claim that Turkey would soon be join­ing the Euro­pean Union, the false prom­ise of in­de­pen­dent trade deals, and dis­miss­ing the very real threat to Bri­tish busi­ness and in­dus­tries leav­ing the Euro­pean Union would pose. The dem­a­gogy has con­tin­ued in the un­cer­tainty which has fol­lowed the Brex­i­teer’s vic­tory in the ref­er­en­dum. Now a new ir­re­spon­si­ble threat has been added. It is the threat of dire po­lit­i­cal con­se­quences if the Brex­i­teers de­mand for a to­tal break with Europe is not met, or if as they put it, “the voice of the peo­ple is ig­nored.” If the 28% who didn’t vote in the ref­er­en­dum are taken into ac­count, nowhere near half the pop­u­la­tion voted leave.

The rea­son May’s plan failed was her ef­fort to avoid any pos­si­bil­ity of a hard bor­der be­tween North­ern Ire­land, a part of Bri­tain, and the Re­pub­lic of Ire­land.

A soft bor­der which al­lowed for the free move­ment of peo­ple and goods was an es­sen­tial fea­ture of the agree­ment that ended 30 years of ter­ror­ist vi­o­lence by Protes­tant para­mil­i­tary or­gan­i­sa­tions want­ing North­ern Ire­land to re­main in Bri­tain and Ro­man Catholic paramil­i­taries want­ing Ire­land to be united.

The exit from Europe the Brex­i­teers want would mean the im­po­si­tion of a hard bor­der again be­cause North­ern Ire­land and the Re­pub­lic would no longer be in the same cus­toms union. With a hard bor­der the re­vival of Catholic ter­ror­ism is more than likely. For my money just the pos­si­bil­ity of that jus­ti­fies Tusk’s crit­i­cism of the Brex­i­teers for their ir­re­spon­si­bil­ity.

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