in government, Ireland

Brexit leverage

The UK government is finding that it has very little leverage in negotiations with the EU over Brexit. What was Her Majesty’s Government’s plan, if there ever was one?

In retrospect, I think Teresa May and her cabinet were hoping that Ireland would be their leverage. Europe would accept a ‘back door’ for Britain into the Single Market in order to avoid startling the Northern Ireland horses.

This could never really work, for reasons that basically have nothing to do with the political situation in Ireland. European agricultural lobbies could never allow allow such a gaping hole in the border of the single market. And Ireland is just not anything like an important enough issue in the EU, population and votes-wise.

Having the DUP supporting Teresa May’s government made this ill-conceived idea completely impossible. The UK government was no longer a neutral actor, trying to get the best outcome for Northern Ireland. It now had a clearly partisan mission. This has made it impossible for the UK to blame the EU for the problems Brexit is causing in Ireland. The EU could now place the blame firmly at the feet of the British.

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