First of all, the technique – it is called “Lesser of Two Evils” and Boris Johnson is the latest to use it. The idea is that you give the other sides two alternatives, it’s kind of an extreme version of “Either / Or”. One of the alternatives is completely unacceptable (“No Deal Brexit” on 31 October) and the other only marginally less so, Johnson’s so-called “Final Offer”. Oh – and just add that wee phrase, “Final Offer” to the mix to twist the knife. “Take it or leave it”. Bound to work.
So, what is the new proposal? In broad bullet points, it looks like this
- The United Kingdom leaves the Customs Union. Crucially, this means that there will need to be some cross-border controls, but there is a commitment not to have any controls at the border crossings themselves
- Northern Ireland will remain wedded to EU rules on goods
- The Northern Irish Stormont Assembly has the right to approve that aspect of the deal every four years. One small issue with that idea; it has not sat as a regional parliament for the last year.
Although the proposal is aimed at the EU – the other side, the reality is that this is like a multi-lateral negotiation, there are so many other parties with an interest in the outcome. Crucially, the Democratic Unionist Party seem to have come around to support this latest proposal. The DUP has never been slow in asking for concessions in return for their support; I wonder how much their 11 votes have cost – apart from the minimal border disruption between the North and Ireland.
I wonder also if the deal suits at least some of the twenty or so Tories who have either resigned or had the whip removed from them? It may not be enough for the likes of Ken Clarke, once a leadership contender and a committed Europhile, but Nicholas Soames and others like him – who knows?
The Irish response has been lukewarm. Leo Veradkar, the Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) complained almost immediately that the new proposals “do not fully meet the objectives of the backstop”. Did you spot the signal? He went on to say that he will spend time looking at the proposal. The EU will, to some extent at least, listen carefully to how Ireland reacts, and it may be that there is a warming at least to the new proposal.
Interesting times – there are so many interest groups to satisfy; so many interests to take account of. The threat is “No deal”, except, is it? One of the things that happened a week ago (or was it two weeks) was a vote in parliament that effectively ruled that option out. Parliament has been prorogued, then recalled, and now will be prorogued again.
And I haven’t even mentioned the SNP. They’re against the whole idea. Nor the Labour party – who knows where it is? The Liberal Democrats are intent on ignoring the results of the referendum but would like to call another one. If the result doesn’t go their way in that referendum, will they just ignore it as well? Maybe they need to have a rethink of their name – the illiberal autocrats, perhaps? Where will we be on 17 October? Where will we be on 31 October – in or out, deal or no deal?
You might as well ask Noel Edmonds. Some of you will be wondering who he is. It doesn’t matter.
Are you at an impasse? Are you facing deadlocked deals?
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