The EU has recognised that the May Government will be prepared to pay any price to prevent a General Election and the risk of a Marxist Corbyn Government, says Peter Divey.
Germany and France have decided that now is the time for confrontation. Legal text in the withdrawal agreement will be uncompromising and will allow no leeway for a preferred UK technical solution concerning the Irish border. Accompanying soundbites have been of the usual EU flavour, the UK is delusional, in dreamland, la la land, a state of being akin to Narnia.
This was inevitable as it seems likely that PM May does not have sufficient support across the House to hold her line especially as the DUP will find the situation intolerable.
The EU is pushing the UK border into the Irish Sea. It is the only solution that will avoid a “hard” border on the island of Ireland. Full regulatory alignment or nothing. PM May was hoping to forestall this process for the trade talks to come which the UK has always said was the most appropriate arena for a mutual resolution. It is what the UK believed had been agreed.
Much will depend upon the reaction of Tory rebels. Back me or sack me has been PM May’s riposte. Defeat in a vote, the loss of confidence, chaos and a sudden collapse. That would suit the majority in Parliament, including some Tories. It seems to be a thread that the EU is more than willing to pull on. It is also impossible for May to walk away, withdrawing the astonishingly generous multi-billion pound payout. The House would certainly not tolerate a no-deal scenario. Or maybe they would? It all depends on the context.
The de-facto break up of the UK should be intolerable to all, not just the DUP. If May can hold her slender majority together that risk is lessened. It is a pragmatic calculation by the EU, May is too weak and will yield, or will fight and lose, defeated by a UK Parliament who would rather see the UK diminished than Brexit enacted. With the most divisive General Election in history looming. Forget policy nuance, this would be the Brexit referendum maxed out on steroids.
How might May compromise? Options are few, with a new Ireland specific customs union probably the only realistic choice. A bitter pill indeed. At the end of the day, this has never really been about negotiation. The EU will make an offer to the departing UK, which they must choose to accept or not. Sweetening the pill with billions of pounds would have been to no avail, a morsel that the EU chose to ignore. More money might just be irresistible though, a temptation too far?
There are some risks for the EU as it cannot expect to improve its popularity. The haters will have good reason to hate more and it may just have revealed too much of its true nature, even to those who tend towards giving it the benefit of any doubt. But one objective will have been accomplished, as no other Country will leave without expectation of grief. Unless they are a budgetary net recipient…that would be a different prospect. Money is almost everything for the EU, solving all problems, lubricating all progress.
The UK side admits this would leave them in no position to negotiate. It is the tightest of tight spots for PM May and the Cabinet. Which is why I think it comes down to money once again. Billions more handed over in secret will see a sudden breakthrough. Galling, but as the EU seems to have calculated, preferable to a General Election and the risk of a Marxist Corbyn Government. Seems to be a big win scenario for the EU. In 40 years’ time, it will be revealed that Brexit cost £130 billion. That will be an awful lot of money for PM May’s Brexit In Name Only.