Rumours are swirling that Theresa May is willing to effectively leave Northern Ireland within the EU’s Customs Union and Single Market to meet EU demands on Britain’s border with the Irish Republic.
Having already appeared to cave in to the bloc on the bloated, multi-billion euro “divorce bill” it has been insisting on, the Remain-supporting Prime Minister is travelling to Brussels in an effort to smooth the way for a declaration of “sufficient progress” on the rights of EU nationals and the Northern Irish border, so talks can move on to the subject of a future trade agreement.
It is the border question which has become the EU’s favoured cudgel following the concessions on money, with President of the European Council Donald Tusk handing scandal-hit Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar an effective veto over any Brexit deal at the weekend.
Theresa May, true to recent form, has chosen to meet the challenge not by preparing for ‘No Deal’ but, according to a draft agreement seen by MEPs, by preparing a series of concessions, with Britain agreeing to “continued regulatory alignment” between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
This would effectively leave the Province subject to the regulatory regime of the EU’s Single Market and Customs Union, with the erection of a customs border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom a worst case scenario.
This UK Government’s bitter betrayal of 17.4 million people today is a concession too far, for it will lead to endless problems in Scotland and it damages the integrity of the United Kingdom.
— Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage) December 4, 2017
Brexit campaign leader Nigel Farage has described the concession as a “bitter betrayal” of the 17.4 million Leave voters who carried the EU referendum last year, as well as “a concession too far, for it will lead to endless problems in Scotland and damages the integrity of the United Kingdom.”
Indeed, Scotland’s left-liberal first minister Nicola Sturgeon has already demanded that Scotland also be allowed to “effectively stay in the Single Market” in Northern Ireland can — and controversial London mayor Sadiq Khan says he will push for the capital to be given “special status” as well.
We will not accept any form of regulatory divergence which separates Northern Ireland economically or politically from the rest of the United Kingdom. pic.twitter.com/uCBVdfVQTJ
— Arlene Foster (@DUPleader) December 4, 2017
Theresa May faces a powerful obstacle in the form of Northern Irish first minister Arlene Foster, however.
Foster, who leads the conservative Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and supported the Brexit campaign during the EU referendum, has responded to speculation about the draft agreement robustly: “We have been very clear. Northern Ireland must leave the EU on the same terms as the rest of the United Kindom.”
She added that the DUP would “not accept any form of regulatory divergence which separates Northern Ireland economically or politically from the rest of the United Kingdom.”
This represents a significant challenge for the Prime Minister, who leads a minority administration and depends on the DUP to pass her legislative programme — such as it is — through the House of Commons.
That’s one – a big one – of many reasons such a consession would be Tory madness. Anyway, the UK and S. Ireland never wanted a border, the only entity demanding one is the EU Commission. Why are we dancing to their tune – the whole point if #Brexit is to end that malarkey. #UKIP https://t.co/MWHItRNa6Y
— Henry Bolton OBE (@_HenryBolton) December 4, 2017
A spokesman for the UK Independence Party has told Breitbart London that the EU’s insistence on customs and regulatory arrangements which would undermine the unity of the United Kingdom demonstrate that “Mrs May must now accept that the EU is not working in good faith, and must make a ‘No Deal’ situation her default position.”