The Strategist

Brexit talks stop at the Irish border

02/07/2019 - 11:15

The situation around the Brexit agreement is once again heating up on the eve of the British Prime Minister Theresa May’s talks with the authorities of the European Union (EU). The main issue for them will be the border of Great Britain with Ireland and the fate of the backstop mechanism. In the opinion of opponents of its use, the mechanism makes the Brexit procedure itself senseless. Fearing not to come to a compromise at the appointed time, British ministers are discussing a plan for a possible postponement of the exit from the EU, but President of the European Council Donald Tusk said that this option is not being considered.

David Dixon
David Dixon
Today, British Prime Minister Theresa May will hold talks with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and President of the European Council Donald Tusk. The parties will once again discuss details of the agreement on the UK exit from the EU. Last week, the British parliament rejected a number of Brexit amendments, again leaving the country without a clear plan for exiting the European Union. On the eve of Theresa May's visit, the head of the European Council, Donald Tusk, made a statement. Once again, he stressed that the EU is not going to make changes to the agreement and to start repeated negotiations.

Instead, Mr. Tusk said that he expects to “hear realistic proposals on how to break the deadlock in which the Brexit process ended up after voting in the British parliament” on January 15. At the same time, the deputies of the English parliament made it clear with their vote that, although they oppose withdrawal from the European Union without an agreement, they do not support the document in its current form, considering it necessary to revise the conditions.

At the same time, The Daily Telegraph told about a secret meeting of members of the UK cabinet ministers, which discussed a possibility of postponing the date of the country's withdrawal from the EU for eight weeks: from March 29 to the end of May. The need for the so-called “postponement period” has already been repeatedly stated by British officials, such as the Foreign Office head Jeremy Hunt, Finance Minister Philip Hammond and Trade Minister Liam Fox. The United Kingdom may indeed need such a postponement, because the time left for leaving the EU is running out, but there is no solution yet.

At the talks on Thursday, the main topic will be provision of border and customs control in Northern Ireland. This question is causing the hottest debates in the English Parliament. MPs do not agree with the presence of a backstop mechanism, according to which, if the UK leaves the EU without an agreement, Northern Ireland and after Brexit will obey the EU Customs Union and the rules of the single market. According to the most determined supporters of Brexit in parliament, this mechanism implies actual preservation of Britain in the EU, and Brexit loses its meaning. Northern Ireland itself is much more afraid of appearance of a rigid border between the region and the Republic of Ireland. They believe that it is fraught with serious economic problems and aggravations of historical contradictions, the end of which was largely due to the entry of both countries into the EU and openness of the border.

This question is so acute that Theresa May went to Northern Ireland on Tuesday and, with her personal speech, convinced people of the region that it was impossible to return to the hard border.

Apparently watching his colleague and her difficult attempts to solve the Irish issue, Donald Tusk (supporting the backstop mechanism) at a meeting with the Irish Prime Minister said he was curious, "what a special place in hell looks like for those who promoted Brexit, even not having a rough plan for how to safely implement it.” He also noted that, in his opinion, many people in the UK and Ireland would like to reverse the Brexit decision, but for this the local leadership "lacks political will."