A sensible compromise remains the only way forward, despite bluster on both sidesby David Henig / September 10, 2019 / Leave a comment
It turns out that there is a good reason why international economic policy, such as UK relations with the EU, must be forged through consensus. If extreme views dominate instead, including in parliament, you have no idea whether in six months’ time we will still be members or have left with no deal. And that whatever happens in six months’ time may be reversed at the next election. It is of course no basis for business operations and investment, which is why the numbers on the latter continue to disappoint.
The big question is whether there is any current path for a compromise outcome, or whether we are destined to continue the UK version of Groundhog Day for some time to come. The bad news is that more than three years since the referendum and less than two months before the next scheduled departure date, I don’t think we yet understand how we’ll deliver such a compromise. Indeed, since Johnson took office that outcome has seemed further away than ever.
That is not to say nobody is trying. Away from the chaos in No 10, sensible MPs certainly are. Enter the Northern Ireland-only backstop, about which discussion has suddenly spiked, not least in that territory. Reconsider “alternative arrangements” for the Irish border. Enter “MPs for a Deal,” a new group including Stephen Kinnock and Rory Stewart among others. Three potential compromises. Or perhaps similar compromises with different routes.
Yet none of them offer much chance of success. Take the Northern Ireland-only backstop as the first example: the idea is that the territory will in effect continue to apply many EU rules, that any required checks would be undertaken in the Irish Sea, and therefore no land border infrastructure or related checks are needed. To evaluate this we need to recall that peace was brought to the province through the principle of the consent of both communities.
What naturally follows from this is that if there is significant opposition from within one of the communities a Northern Ireland-only backstop is not a feasible outcome. That was in part why Theresa May rejected this option, and persuaded the EU to offer UK-wide elements, and this basic situation has not changed. It is possible that local communities will persuade the…