The European Union is insisting, again, that there can be no progress on Brexit talks – especially about trade arrangements – until the Irish border problem is solved. The problem here is that there is no Irish border solution to be had. Given the negotiating stance claimed in Brussels either we stop being a United Kingdom or we don’t really leave the European Union. Neither of which are acceptable answers in London – nor Belfast really.
Thus there isn’t a solution – and so there probably won’t be a trade deal either.
Donald Tusk, the president of the European council, has said that Ireland must come first in the Brexit talks. He made the comment on a visit to Dublin, where he is meeting the Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar.
This isn’t unusual in negotiations of course. Insist upon an answer to the impossible and watch as the concessions upon everything else come tumbling in.
The EU has thrown down an ultimatum to Theresa May in Brexit talks, warning that it will not open discussions about trade or other issues until the Irish border question is solved.
Speaking in Dublin alongside the Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar, European Council president Donald Tusk said talks would be a case of “Ireland first” and that “the risk of destabilising the fragile peace process must be avoided at all costs”.
“We know today that the UK government rejects a customs and regulatory border down the Irish Sea, the EU single market, and the customs union,” the Council president said.
“While we must respect this position, we also expect the UK to propose a specific and realistic solution to avoid a hard border.
“As long as the UK doesn’t present such a solution, it is very difficult to imagine substantive progress in Brexit negotiations.
“If in London someone assume that the negotiations will deal with other issues first before than the Irish issue, my response would be: Ireland first.”
Effectively this is the statement that the EU is just not going to engage constructively in negotiations upon Brexit. Simply by demanding that the impossible be solved before anything else is discussed.
Except, of course, that there is a solution, as we’ve pointed out before:
Our answer should be “Yes.” We agree that we are leaving, that we have put in place that hard border. Then we do absolutely nothing above what we already do. People come and go as they wish, carrying what goods they can, and we do nothing. Except, as we already do, we keep an eye on those moving things on an industrial scale and have our little customs and tax chats with them away from that line on the map.
What other people wish to do on their side of that line is entirely up to them. We will do, as we’ve always done when in our right minds, what is useful and beneficial to us. It’s somewhat unfashionable these days to talk of the empire but it’s still true that we had it. Often because we’re rather good at this lying, cheating and dissembling. We should carry on. So, there’s the border, as it is today. And?
The thing is, when the EU wants to accept a lie it does. As with all those rules not allowing monetisation of fiscal deficits until the euro itself looked to be in danger. That they’re not willing to accept a lie – no, let us call it constructive ambiguity perhaps – on this issue tells us that they don’t want the further negotiations to take place anyway.
At which point, bugger ’em, reversion to WTO terms and we’ll declare unilateral free trade. The very things we should be doing anyway.