Irish Government ‘strategically stupid’, claims former Ukip MP

UK to crash out of EU in October, predicts Douglas Carswell

Britain will most likely leave the EU without a deal at or around the end of October unless there is a time-limit on the contentious backstop, former UK Independent Party MP Douglas Carswell has said.

Speaking on a visit to Dublin, Mr Carswell – who was elected UKIP’s first MP in 2014 – warned that if the process around Britain’s departure from the EU was delayed for a longer period, it would lead to “a less liberal Brexit” shaped by “the worst kind of Euroscepticism”.

The former politician said that unless there was a time limit on the backstop – which is opposed by both Dublin and Brussels – then the chances of Britain leaving the EU on or shortly after the deadline of October 31st without an agreement were "very high", at 60 to 70 per cent.

The backstop, which has stalled the Brexit process, is the insurance policy within the withdrawal agreement that avoids a hard Irish border unless the issue is resolved in a future EU-UK trade deal.


“It would be a tragedy if intransigence on the issue of the backstop led to a situation where British politics became a contest between [Brexit Party leader Nigel] Farage and [Labour Party leader Jeremy] Corbyn,” said Mr Carswell, who now runs a data analytics company and works as an adviser. “ I don’t think long term that would be good for either of our countries. ”

The former MP was speaking after addressing the Institute for International and European Affairs, the Dublin-based thinktank, on the subject of what might happen next with Brexit.

Hold firm

In his address, he said the EU’s decision to hold firm on the backstop in the Brexit negotiations and “two years of snide remarks” by EU officials had “served in effect as a party election broadcast for the Brexit Party”.

Rejecting the backstop, Mr Carswell told The Irish Times a sovereign country could not sign up to an arrangement that precludes it from pursuing an independent trade policy “in perpetuity”. This, he argued, would become a “de facto device for binding the entirety of the UK economy” to an EU tariff regime it wants to leave.

He said he believed the Irish Government had "played a blinder tactically" in putting the backstop central in the withdrawal agreement but had been "strategically stupid" if its intention was "to bind Britain in" and minimise the consequences of the 2016 Brexit referendum.

“What now looks very likely is that far from minimising the referendum result, there’s going to be rupture and not just rupture, subsequent restlessness now,” he said. “Three years of a culture war in Britain has radicalised opinions.”

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is The Irish Times’s Public Affairs Editor and former Washington correspondent