Brexit: The Ongoing Story

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA - By DaniKauf - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=64126

Theresa May’s recent Chequers plan continues (or rather, does not move along at all) the discussion around Brexit. May’s proposal incorporates security, the economy, ‘future areas of cooperation’ and nuclear power. Its main aims are to ensure the future of Northern Ireland and, more broadly, Britain’s position on the global stage. Despite this impetus towards being an international player, the Chequers plan outlines Britain’s exit from the single market, customs union, common agricultural policy, common fisheries policy and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. Its name derives from the location of its creation, Chequers Court, the Prime Minister’s country residence.

It has not, however, been a piece of policy that brings together one agreed route of Brexit. Its entrance onto the global stage saw then Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson resign in protest, whilst Michael Gove – as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – publicly lent the plan his support. The chief conflict within the Tory party is its disagreement between honoring the Good Friday Agreement or renegotiating the Northern and Republic of Ireland’s border. Indeed, more importantly, the plan has not been welcomed by the European Union itself which has registered its ‘detailed concerns.’ Rather than attempting to address these concerns, May has instead asked the European Union to offer up alternatives if it has them. In response, the EU has stated that the ball is not in its court and it is very much in Britain’s interests to begin compromising.

Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, explained (in an as yet unpublished document) that the Union’s problems with the proposal were that:

“The UK proposal would lead to a diversion of trade and investment in the UK’s favour and to the disadvantage of member states’ business.”

Predictably, the EU will not accept a deal that places the United Kingdom’s interests above that of the entire Union. The question remains whether Northern Ireland would still be subject to most single market rules in order to avoid a hard border. Without such an agreement, Barnier does not envisage proceedings starting from October as previously planned. This view was supported by the Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar who called for “meaningful progress”. The thorns in May’s side are her awkward bedfellows of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). Her government majority, won with the help of Northern Irish Unionists, explains her lack of compromise in relinquishing British control over the area. The DUP does not want to “subject Northern Ireland to different economic rules”.

However, the fear of no deal at all dominates the British press, with new information distributed every day detailing the potentially imminent catastrophe of a no-deal Brexit. The Economist in August 2018 described the threat of “food shortages, grounded planes and [the ominous recurrence of] a hard border”.

Evidently, May refuses to shift her position and the EU will not bow down to the Prime Minister’s pressure despite her recent impassioned (though poorly received) speech in France in which she demanded the EU’s respect. Ultimately, the EU’s position is resolute: Britain has made its bed, and now must lie in it.

Catherine McNaughton

Global Seven News

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