The Irish issue is far from solved. Along with the rest of the many vexing Brexit issues, it is set to dominate UK politics for years ahead.
For all the hooray after the recent Juncker-May announcement, it is high time for soberness.
As recent admissions by David Davis have underscored, the May government is woefully unprepared for the next round.
Though never on top of events, Theresa May at least no longer seems headed for a No Deal crash. A second referendum, now that more and more facts are emerging of what the true costs of Brexit are, may have a different result.
For all the hooray after the recent Juncker-May announcement about the Brexit negotiations between the UK and the EU-27 proceding to the next stage, it is high time for soberness.
The Ireland issue is far from solved. In this context, it is helpful to remember that Disraeli first used the term “The Irish Question” in the House of Commons back in 1844 — and it overwhelmed British domestic politics for the next 80 years…
Protestant England has long been frightened by any Catholic expression of Irish (=Catholic) identity. In the proper historical frame, it all goes back to the Irish Frightof 1688 which took place in England and parts of Wales in December that year, during the Glorious Revolution.
False reports that Irish soldiers were burning and massacring English towns prompted a mass panic in at least 19 counties, with thousands of people arming themselves and preparing to resist non-existent groups of marauding Irishmen.
Now that the Ireland issue has fused with Brexit, this new Brexit-Irish question will be with us for a decade or more. All we can say for certain that Brexit will continue to dominate British politics for years and years.
Very soon, the focus will turn to the “pedestrian” – but fiendishly complex – issues such as the need for customs clearance, work permits or getting permission from national regulators.
Thus, the cheery bit of the Christmas season for Tory politicians is now over. The easy part of the Brexit withdrawal negotiations lies behind them.
UK woefully unprepared
And, as recent admissions by David Davis have underscored, the May government is woefully unprepared for the next round. Contrary to oft-heard claims, no detailed sector-by-sector scenario and assessment planning has occurred.
Theresa May is nevertheless relieved. Never on top of events, at least she no longer seems headed for a No Deal crash.
However, the prime minister’s palpable sense of relief does not solve anything for the Tories. Britain’s Conservative Party is the party of business or it is nothing.
So far, it has shown remarkable disregard for the certainty of operations which today’s modern corporations need, regardless of whether they trade in goods or services.
Enter Michael Gove
The recent addition of Michael Gove to the May cabinet has helped somewhat, at least with regard to temporarily increasing the Tories’ sense of realism. He very much appears as the new strongman in May’s cabinet. At a minimum, he has emerged as its major Brexit strategist.
However, Gove is anything but all good news, whether for May or for Brussels. He maintains very close links with U.S. neocons and the neo-liberal right. Gove wants the UK to shed its linkages with the EU as much as possible.
His vision is one of an Americanized England – a country that shakes off all European ideas of social and ecological responsibility and doing such things as holding giant firms like Apple, Facebook or Google to account.
To get there, Gove has one recurring nightmare – that the British people might be allowed a second thought on Brexit. A second referendum, now that more and more facts are emerging of what the true costs of a Brexit are, may have a different result.
To head that off, he already insisted in a Daily Telegraph column last week that in a future election, voters would elect a party – presumably a Conservative Party with him as its then-leader – committed to fully breaking with Single Market and Customs Union obligations.
That way, he evidently hopes to close the door on any potential reconsideration of Brexit in his country.
Denis MacShane is a Contributing Editor at The Globalist. He was the UK’s Minister for Europe from 2002 to 2005 — and is the author of “Brexit No Exit: Why Britain Won’t Leave Europe.” [London].