Miriam Lord: This will cost a lot of bother and money. And probably your job, Theresa

Brexit votes: Nothing can be assumed from Westminster’s panorama of pandemonium

The UK could face a long delay to Brexit if MPs cannot agree a way forward in coming days says prime minister Theresa May, after MPs voted to reject leaving the EU without a deal in any circumstance. Video: Reuters

 

Now Theresa. As far as that new extension in Westminster is concerned, don’t be doing anything mad. Go in just under the planning guidelines.

Nothing too fancy in the way of decor. No grey areas or red lines.

Put in plenty of grab rails and an additional en suite, in case of accidents and heaves.

So how much will this cost? One way or the other, no matter how you look at it – an awful lot of time, bother and money. Oh, and probably your job, Theresa.

The British prime minister hasn’t applied to Brussels for permission to extend as she has yet to ask the House of Commons for permission to seek permission. Theresa May should get this initial go-ahead on Thursday. But even reaching this halfway house came with a qualifying palaver. MPs first had to decide whether to banish the possibility of a no-deal Brexit from their EU withdrawal plans.

Given that apparently “nobody” wanted to crash out without a deal (that way lies destruction), it was widely assumed that no-deal would bite the dust.

But nothing can be assumed from Westminster’s panorama of pandemonium. In a confusion of votes on Wednesday night, an early version of a no-deal outcome was rejected by a whisker but the main one was dismissed by a much wider margin.

Back in Dáil Éireann, the Róisín Shortall of the Social Democrats shuddered at the thought that “so many people could contemplate a no-deal Brexit”.

One more vote and Theresa May can delay Brexit by seeking to extend the March 29th deadline for leaving. But once she lobs in the application, a green light from Europe is not guaranteed.

The Dáil is very interested in how she gets on.

“An extension is clearly required for everyone to reflect, and at least to avoid Armageddon,” said the Fianna Fáil leader, with commendable understatement, at midday on Wednesday.

“Time is very short, but I think there is still time for a sensible outcome,” said the Tánaiste at teatime, fresh from having delivered a similar lesson to the Seanad. The Upper House wound up its debate on the Oireachtas Brexit Bill, clearing the way for it to be passed into law.

BREXIT: The Facts

Read them here

The Dáil was already well ahead in this “fast and furiously” moving story, as Micheál Martin accurately described it. Another slice of speaking time was set aside for the evening. The topic was a moveable feast: “recent developments on Brexit”.

As an exercise in achieving anything it was neither here nor there, but when you have no control over a serious situation you feel you have to be doing something.

Terrible start

Wednesday got off to a terrible start with a hair-raising dispatch from London about the tariff regime to be imposed on Irish imports in the event of the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal. The details particularly shocked the farming community. But as there will be no levies at the border in Northern Ireland, the smuggling community was en fete.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney: “On the EU side we’ve done all that’s possible to reach an agreement. If there is a solution, it is to be found in London.” Photograph: Tom Honan/PA Wire
Tánaiste Simon Coveney: “On the EU side we’ve done all that’s possible to reach an agreement. If there is a solution, it is to be found in London.” Photograph: Tom Honan/PA Wire

TDs were worried. If a no-deal Brexit emerges and these tariffs are applied, what is going to be done for Irish beef farmers in terms of compensation?

“Can you give us the flesh and bone of such a package?” demanded Micheál Martin (grilled with Chimmichurri would be nice). Things are serious and he needed specific answers, “because we won’t be meeting again, I think, until three days before the end of March”.

What? The end of March?

With the whole Brexit flapdoodle, we had forgotten the Dáil is shutting up shop for the annual St Patrick’s Day break, reconvening on March 26th, three days before B-Day.

“In the interests of transparency we need to have this fully fleshed out and for greater detail to be provided to the House on issues that are critical for many people,” urged Micheál.

Tánaiste Coveney – a former minister for agriculture – is well aware that the Dáil must spring into action at the earliest opportunity should matters deteriorate.

“Well, first of all Deputy, this parliament will meet if it has to,” he said, twice, delighting those Deputies who have booked a week away and don’t want a call from their chief whip summoning them ashore.

When MPs voted down the option of the UK departing without a deal, Ireland’s Government Ministers abroad on shamrock duty were mightily relieved. Had the vote gone the other way, they would have been hauled home for an emergency meeting.

But until something is agreed, the risk of an “accidental no-deal” remains.

Fortunately, a worried populace was put at its ease by a transatlantic tweet from the Taoiseach, promising all and sundry that “the Government has your back…whatever happens in the next few weeks”. Which is most reassuring.

Not that there is much that can be done at the Dublin end to improve matters.

“The crisis here and the problem here and the uncertainty linked to Brexit all emanate from the inability of the British Parliament to be able to give a clear signal, through majority support, on what they are willing to support and ratify,” said Simon Coveney. But we must look on the bright side.

“I think we will have a clearer picture – I hope – over the next 48 hours,” he said, contemplating what was on the cards in Westminster.

“On the EU side we’ve done all that’s possible to reach an agreement. If there is a solution, it is to be found in London.” But a solution is not enough. It must be a “viable solution” and not a temporary one like the scare-tactics try-on with the tariffs.

“What I’m saying is that we have a deal on the table that solves that problem. It’s called the backstop.”

Theresa will have to find a spot for it in the new extension – in a crowded corner with her maggoty meaningful votes.

She can forget the red lines by saying it was all a mistake. She meant Britain’s beloved pubs. “We will not give up our “Red Lions”.

Yes. Things are looking up.

Borderlands

A special investigation on Brexit & the Border Read More
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