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Old 06-09-2019, 08:09 AM
Sandwich is offline
Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: Suffolk
Posts: 444
Originally Posted by Northern Piper View Post
Sandwich, I've read your posts and I'm trying to understand something, as a distant observer.

My understanding is that the EU's main point with Ireland was no hard border between the Republic and Northern Ireland.

But, that goal could be met by having a hard border in the Irish Sea.

But, the British government opposed that, because that would be seen as the beginning of ceding Northern Ireland to the Republic.

So, what do you think has changed to allow this "simple tweak" as you put it - the British government now agreeIng to an internal hard border between component parts of the United Kingdom?
"...trying to understand...": that's not really the SDMB way now is it?

What's significant is what hasn't changed: half the population is still strongly committed to leaving. I for one didn't expect this. I thought that faced with the entirely predictable reality of the last three years of chaos, nonsense and national humiliation, that opinion polls would now be showing say two to one for remain. This would allow Parliament to organise a 'confirmatory' referendum and for the people to vote overwhelmingly to remain. Some people seem to think that is still a possible path, but I don't see that working any more.

This (apparently) means that a clear majority of Westminster constituencies still have a clear majority for leave, even if there is a small majority nationally for remain.

As we have seen in the European and Peterborough votes, plenty of people are happy to vote for the Brexit Party. This superficially appears to be a problem for the Conservatives, but it's not, provided they don't permanently alienate any Brexit voters, and if in the short term they can avoid having their vote split so that Labour win seats. The Conservatives realise this, and will shortly elect a leader committed to doing all they can to get us out of the EU. If and when that happens, then all their voters come back to them.

Less obviously, the cross party split on Brexit has already broken the Labour party. This isn't just Brexit, there has been a general movement towards the right in England, and the rise of Scottish nationalism, which combined with Brexit means that Labour will struggle to get a majority in Westminster regardless of how badly the Conservatives perform. Today, tomorrow, and into next year, Labour cannot win a general election without both northern working class leave voters and urban remain voters both enthusiastically supporting the party. In the current polarised climate that is not possible.

Overall, I conclude that we are leaving, and that the Conservatives will win the next general election easily unless they take the blame for us crashing out with no deal. So the challenge for the next Conservative leader is how to avoid taking that blame. Note that, if we have already crashed out before the next general election, then we have already crashed out. It seems obvious when you state it bluntly, but a lot of commentary (not just on this board) seems to have an unspoken premise that crashing out somehow validates the remainers and gives them a victory, which is... odd.

Conversely, if the general election is held before Brexit, then it will be quite difficult for anyone to blame the Conservatives for taking us out of the EU with no deal, since we wouldn't have actually left yet. Plus, Labour aren't going to win the next general election anyway, see above.

Note also that the EU's current deadline of 31 October is fast approaching. We may already have passed the point where a referendum can be called before then, and soon a general election will also not be practical, and the procedural default is that we crash out unless something stops us. Of course, the deadline could be shifted, despite EU protestations that this is our last chance, in the same way that further negotiations might take place if the UK says something substantial. But kicking the can down the road doesn't achieve anything unless there is a change in public opinion on Brexit, and it's hard to see what would change that now.

The other significant thing which hasn't changed is that the Labour party is still not advocating remain or a second referendum. As I said in an earlier post, getting a fervent remainer into the leader's role might be enough to get a referendum done and won before 31 October, but the road is fraught with political and procedural difficulties, even if the leadership challenge starts yesterday, which it didn't. And, the Brexit Party won't go away, and would win the next general election and then take us out anyway, because of the concentration of the remain vote in fewer seats than leavers.

The other thing to remember is that my suggestion that the withdrawal agreement be tweaked so that the backstop applies only to Northern Ireland is just one way that a new Conservative leader might successfully navigate the challenge of Brexiting and not taking the blame for crashing out with no deal. It's just possible that a completely new withdrawal agreement could be negotiated, though clearly the EU really doesn't want to do that. But the EU doesn't want the UK to crash out with no deal either, if any sensible alternatives could be proposed.

So, what has changed to make an NI limited backstop more palatable:
- it has become clear to many northern Labour MPs that they could easily lose their seats to the Brexit Party or a revitalised Conservative Party if they oppose Brexit, to the extent that it seems likely that a general election will lead to a hard Brexit government with a clear working majority
- it has become clear to all Labour MPs that EU opposition to renegotiating the withdrawal agreement applies as much to them as to the Tories
- it should have become clear to all Labour MPs that the Labour Party's proposals for their version of a cake-and -eat-it-Brexit is never going to happen
- it should be clear to all MPs that if we are leaving, as it seems we now must, then a negotiated deal is optimal. However, the current proposed withdrawal agreement is not workable, it really is remain in disguise, and won't fly with leave voters
- it seems likely that crashing out with no deal is an option, if the EU won't renegotiate even with a realistic and pragmatic UK government. If so, then in the fullness of time Scotland and Northern Ireland will leave the UK anyway, so we may as well bite the bullet on Northern Ireland now
- a customs border in the Irish Sea between Northern Ireland and Great Britain needn't be the end of the union anyway, if the people of Northern Ireland don't want it to be
- British people have started paying attention to Irish issues. Previously, British opinion on Irish nationalists (and by extension the Republic of Ireland) was viewed through the prism of the Troubles, when the Irish were disgusting and cynical mass murderers of entirely innocent British people. Now, we see and know that Northern Irish unionists vote in some bizarrely bigoted and outlandish political representatives in the shape of the DUP, and that the Republic of Ireland (and by extension Irish nationalists in the north of Ireland) is full of entirely reasonable and charming people with entirely normal political views. Maybe it is time for Britain to finally leave Ireland to the Irish?

TL;DR: it was arguable in June 2016, and even June 2018, that one way or another Parliament would steer the nation back to remain or at least to BRINO (that is, Norway ++). In June 2019 that isn't such a credible position to take, if only because Parliament manifestly has not done so. So the question is, do we crash out with no deal, or is there any workable deal? That is, one which avoids any substantive border in Ireland, while leaving Great Britain free to make wonderful, excellent, brilliant deals with third countries such as Mr Trump's USA. I think there is.