Brexiteers Are Still in Denial About What Leaving the EU Means

British prime minister Theresa May speaks with ministers at her Chequers country retreat in Buckinghamshire, England, February 22
British prime minister Theresa May speaks with ministers at her Chequers country retreat in Buckinghamshire, England, February 22 (MoD)

British ministers are due to meet at the prime minister’s Chequers country retreat this weekend to hammer out a Brexit strategy.

The conclave is unlikely to produce a breakthrough. The EU hasn’t budged from its position. Neither have hardliners in Theresa May’s government. Read more

EU Rejects Northern Ireland Proposals, Italy No Closer to Government

British and European flags outside the Berlaymont building in Brussels, January 29, 2016
British and European flags outside the Berlaymont building in Brussels, January 29, 2016 (European Commission)

The EU has rejected British proposals for avoiding a hard border in Ulster, with a source telling The Telegraph, “It was a detailed and forensic rebuttal… It was made clear that none of the UK’s customs options will work. None of them.”

Keep in mind that The Telegraph is a right-wing, pro-Brexit newspaper, so its sources may be attempting to put pressure on EU negotiators.

According to the report, the EU rejected:

  • A “customs partnership”, under which British would collect EU tariffs on goods destined for EU markets, as needlessly complex; and
  • A “highly streamlined customs arrangement” as effectively “turning a blind eye” to goods coming from non-EU countries.

The United Kingdom has committed to keeping Northern Ireland in full regulatory alignment with the EU in order to avoid a border with Ireland. The easiest way to accomplish that would be to keep Northern Ireland in the EU customs unions, however, that is unacceptable to hardline unionists in Theresa May’s government. Read more

Britain, EU Agree Transition Deal, Black Men Face Challenges in America

David Davis and Michel Barnier, the Brexit negotiators for the United Kingdom and the European Union, deliver a news conference in Brussels, June 19, 2017
David Davis and Michel Barnier, the Brexit negotiators for the United Kingdom and the European Union, deliver a news conference in Brussels, June 19, 2017 (European Commission)

The United Kingdom has agreed to remain part of the European single market during the transition period following its departure from the bloc on March 29, 2019.

For the next year and a half, goods, services, capital and people would continue to move freely in and out of the United Kingdom. However, London will no longer have a say in the making of EU rules, including fishing quotas.

Other parts of the transition agreement include:

  • Britain will be allowed to negotiate and sign trade deals that go into effect after December 31, 2020.
  • Short of an innovative solution, Northern Ireland will continue to live under EU regulations, avoiding the need for a hard border in Ulster but creating the need for one between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.

Hardliners in Britain are appalled by the concessions. Read more

Rutte Urges EU Pragmatism, May’s Speech Heard Very Differently in Europe

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte shakes hands with German chancellor Angela Merkel in Kleve, near the Dutch-German border, May 23, 2013
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte shakes hands with German chancellor Angela Merkel in Kleve, near the Dutch-German border, May 23, 2013 (Bundesregierung)

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte called for pragmatism in a speech in Berlin in Friday. The best way to take the wind out of the sails of Euroskeptic parties, he said, is to show results:

Lofty visions do not create jobs or security. Nor does shouting from the ends of the political spectrum. Only hard work […] produces results that benefit people in their daily lives.

The Merkelian rhetoric is a reality check for French president Emmanuel Macron, who has proposed far-reaching reforms in Europe.

With Britain, traditionally an ally, leaving the bloc, the Netherlands is becoming more vocal in resisting what it — and the German right — fear would amount to transfer union: the permanent subsidization of poorer member states by the wealthy.

There was a discrepancy in coverage. Dutch media emphasized the many positive things Rutte said about the EU. Foreign outlets focused on his “red lines”. The reason is that Rutte is considered more of a Euroskeptic at home than he is abroad. Read more

EU Sets Red Lines for Brexit, Puigdemont to Lead Government-in-Waiting

British prime minister Theresa May attends an EU summit in Tallinn, Estonia, September 28, 2017
British prime minister Theresa May attends an EU summit in Tallinn, Estonia, September 28, 2017 (EU2017EE/Annika Haas)

The European Commission has set out its red lines for Brexit in a draft agreement:

  • Northern Ireland: Would remain in the EU customs union, creating the need for an economic border in the Irish Sea.
  • Free movement: Continued free movement of EU nationals during the post-Brexit transition period.
  • Trade deals: Also during the transition, Britain would not be allowed to initiate or sign trade deals that are prejudicial to EU interests.

None of these red lines are acceptable to hardline Brexiteers and the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland, whose votes Theresa May needs for her majority in Westminster. Read more

American Media Divide Generations, Labour Attempts to Divide Conservatives

British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn attends a conference of European socialist parties in Paris, France, July 8, 2016
British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn attends a conference of European socialist parties in Paris, France, July 8, 2016 (PES)

Just when Britain’s Conservatives were getting their act together — twenty months after the country voted for Brexit — Labour has thrown a wrench in the works.

Sebastian Payne writes in the Financial Times that by supporting a continued customs union with the EU, Labour is testing the loyalty of those Conservatives for whom a Canadian-style trade agreement falls short.

Labour has consistently stood back and allowed the Conservatives to set out a position and then nudged or fudged its own policy to somewhere slightly softer, but without alienating its own “leavers”. Mr Corbyn is still an unreformed left-wing, quiet supporter of Brexit, but this is about beating the government.

Conservatives who opposed Brexit will also be disappointed by the reality of a “Canada plus” deal. The EU has consistently warned that there can be no cherry-picking. The United Kingdom must be either in or out. Read more

Brexiteers Disparage Good Friday Agreement, Berlusconi Hints at Tajani Premiership

Daniel Hannan makes a speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, February 5
Daniel Hannan makes a speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, February 5 (European Parliament/Fred Marvaux)

Politico reports that Brexiteers have launched a broadside against the Good Friday Agreement that has kept the peace in Northern Ireland for twenty years.

Former Northern Ireland secretary Owen Paterson and Labour “leaver” Kate Hoey believe the 1998 deal has “outlived its use.” Daniel Hannan, a Conservative member of the European Parliament, argues it has “failed”. Jacob Rees-Mogg, a prominent Conservative backbencher, disputes that Brexit puts the peace at risk.

The timing is awkward. Northern Ireland has been without a devolved government for thirteen months. Although Brexit isn’t the main issue separating pro-British unionists and pro-Irish nationalists, it does factor into the parties’ calculations given that the pro-Brexit Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) props up Theresa May’s government in Westminster.

The problem is that the Conservatives have committed to both take the United Kingdom out of the EU customs union and single market and protect the Good Friday Agreement and all-island economy. Those goals are incompatible so long as Ireland remains in the EU.

A solution would be for Britain to remain in the single market, like Norway, or in the customs union, like Turkey, but that is unacceptable to Brexiteers. Read more