May’s ‘bold, new offer’ on Brexit has probably made things worse

Analysis: Nobody at Westminster prepared to risk supporting a weakened PM facing inevitable failure

British prime minister Theresa May says she will offer the UK parliament a vote on whether to advance with a second referendum on Brexit. Video: Reuters

 

Theresa May’s “bold, new offer” on Brexit includes compromises with Labour, the DUP and advocates for a second referendum that would have been unimaginable a few months ago. But the effect of the British prime minister’s speech on Tuesday appears to have been to make things worse, as concessions to one group of MPs have alienated others.

Her own weakness, in the dying weeks of her political career, has become an obstacle to winning a majority for the second reading of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) next month. Because nobody at Westminster believes she has a chance of success, nobody has an incentive to take a risk by supporting her.

For the DUP, the proposal does not meet the central demand of removing the Northern Ireland backstop from the withdrawal agreement. But it goes a long way towards trying to prevent it coming into effect and mitigating its impact if it is triggered.

BREXIT: The Facts

Read them here

The bill would incorporate 1922 Committee chairman Graham Brady’s proposal to put into law a commitment to seek to agree alternative arrangements for the Border by December 2020. It guarantees that Great Britain will remain aligned on regulations and customs with Northern Ireland if the backstop does come into force.

And it fulfils a longstanding DUP demand by putting into law paragraph 50 of the December 2017 joint declaration with the EU that first proposed the backstop.

“In the absence of agreed solutions, as set out in the previous paragraph, the United Kingdom will ensure that no new regulatory barriers develop between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom, unless, consistent with the 1998 Agreement, the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly agree that distinct arrangements are appropriate for Northern Ireland. In all circumstances, the United Kingdom will continue to ensure the same unfettered access for Northern Ireland’s businesses to the whole of the United Kingdom internal market,” it states.

Unionists have long complained that the paragraph has been ignored but May promised that it will be implemented in law so that “the Northern Ireland Assembly and executive will have to give their consent on a cross-community basis for new regulations which are added to the backstop”.

This is almost certainly the best offer the DUP will ever get on Brexit and by rejecting it, it risks a no-deal Brexit that could shift the balance of opinion on the Union in Northern Ireland so that a border poll becomes inevitable. But if the bill looks certain to fail at Westminster, the DUP will see no advantage in offering their support to a prime minister on her way out of Downing Street.

Borderlands

A special investigation on Brexit & the Border Read More
The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.