How is the EU supposed to manage post-Brexit relations with a United Kingdom that won’t keep its word?
For the second time in six months, Britain has reneged on its Irish border commitments without consulting the EU or Ireland.
Northern Ireland is still in the European single market for goods under the EU-UK treaty. The rest of the United Kingdom is not, creating new regulatory barriers for British companies. They have struggled to cope. Supermarket shelves in Northern Ireland have gone empty. Parcels are stranded in Great Britain. The government of Boris Johnson has temporarily lifted the new rules to give businesses more time to adjust.
It’s not unreasonable to ask for a few more months of delay. But such a request should have been discussed in the Joint Partnership Council, which was created by the treaty on future EU-UK relations to manage precisely these situations. Instead, Britain acted unilaterally.
Britain’s Conservatives won the election this month, but it may come at the expense of the union of the United Kingdom their party — which has “Unionist” in its name — is sworn to protect.
Conservatives neglected their responsibility to the union by calling the EU referendum in the first place. David Cameron hoped to resolve an intraparty dispute over Europe. He ended up dividing the four nations of the UK. Majorities in Northern Ireland and Scotland voted to remain in the EU. They were outvoted by majorities in England and Wales.
Rather than attempt a “soft” Brexit that might appease Scots and prevent either a border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland or regulatory divergence between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, Cameron’s successors Theresa May and Boris Johnson negotiated a hard break: leaving the European customs union and single market in order to regain full control over immigration and economic policy.
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.
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.
American president Donald Trump has for the second time torpedoed a bipartisan immigration bill by threatening to veto it.
The reason, NBC News reports, is that he wants to keep immigration as a political issue to rally his base going into November’s congressional elections.
The cynicism is astounding. Chris Hayes points out on Twitter:
First the president unilaterally ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, creating uncertainty for hundreds of thousands of immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as minors.
He gave Congress six months to fix the problem (he had created), promising to sign whatever bill lawmakers would put in front of him.
He was promptly brought a bipartisan deal, which combined increased border security with a pathway to legal status for the so-called Dreamers. He rejected it.
He was then brought a second bipartisan deal with even more support. He rejected that.
Clearly the president isn’t interested a solution. He lied — as usual.
The Sun reports that, as a freshman parliamentarian, Jeremy Corbyn was targeted for recruitment by the Czech secret police in 1986 and met at least three times with an intelligence officer posing as a diplomat.
Corbyn says he never knowingly consorted with an East Bloc agent, but John Schindler, an intelligence expert, points out that only one year before the Labour politician was approached, Britain had expelled 25 Soviet “diplomats” who were really KGB officers “and the high-profile case got nonstop coverage in the British media.”
For Corbyn not to have considered the possibility he might be meeting with a spy would have been incredibly naive.
Moreover, Czech human rights abuses under communism were well-known even at the time. What was Corbyn thinking?
Corbyn, I’m sure, will argue it’s important to hear both sides. That’s what he said when he was asked to defend inviting Hamas and Hezbollah representatives to London in 2009. Except he never invited or met with Israeli representatives, just as he didn’t seek meetings with American officials during the Cold War.
Corbyn has a long history of instinctively siding with enemies of his country and the West, from Irish republican terrorists to Fidel Castro to Hugo Chávez to Muammar Gaddafi. Michael J. Totten wrote a good overview in The Atlantic last year. That’s what makes the Czech spy story, despite coming from the notoriously sensationalist The Sun, so believable. Read more “Corbyn’s Spy Career, Catalan Language War”
As I predicted it would, Britain has given into European demand on the Northern Irish border in order to secure an exit deal on Friday that paves the way for talks about the kingdom’s post-Brexit trade relations with the EU.
In the absence of an innovative solution, Britain is now committed to maintain “full alignment with those rules of the internal market and the customs union which, now or in the future, support north-south cooperation, the all-island economy and the protection of the 1998 Agreement” that brought peace to Northern Ireland.