Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Brexit deals for N. Ireland, Scotland, and London?

Negotiations over Brexit hit another snag.

Brexit Talks Hit Hurdle as D.U.P. Balks at Irish Border Plan
Britain’s divorce negotiations with the European Union hit a major snag on Monday, when a hard-line Northern Ireland party that is a crucial ally of Prime Minister Theresa May pulled its support at the last minute from an agreement on the future of the border between the United Kingdom and Ireland.

The abrupt decision, which appeared to take Mrs. May by surprise… derailed a draft deal between Britain and the European Union that is a prerequisite for moving on to the next stage of negotiations…

“Once again Theresa May has come out of Brexit talks with her tail between her legs,” said Tom Brake, a member of Parliament from the Liberal Democrats, an opposition party. “As each day goes by, it becomes clearer that the best deal for everyone is to stay in Europe. The people of the U.K. must be given a vote on the deal and an opportunity to exit from Brexit.”…

Mrs. May’s government appeared to have reached a compromise that would effectively allow Northern Ireland to behave as though it were to remain in the single market and customs union, while technically leaving, along with the rest of the United Kingdom…

The compromise was intended to help prevent the re-imposition of customs checks at the frontier, the land border between the United Kingdom and the European Union. That so-called “hard border” was once a major source of sectarian friction; it was dismantled after the signing of the Good Friday agreement in 1998 that ended decades of violence known as the Troubles. Observers fear that reimposing border controls could revive tensions.

But on Monday the Democratic Unionist Party, a faction that is crucial to the ability of Mrs. May’s Conservatives to command a majority in Parliament, rejected that compromise.

Party members acknowledge the case for continued economic links with Ireland, but are deeply suspicious of any proposals that would confer a special status on Northern Ireland, for fear of eventually making it possible for a United Ireland to emerge…

If the party were to withdraw its support from Mrs. May’s Conservatives altogether, that could topple the government and bring the Labour Party into power…

If there is no agreement reached to start the next phase of the Brexit talks, it would be nearly impossible to achieve a trade deal by March 2019, the deadline for completion of the process…

The rumored deal on the border with Ireland immediately set off an outcry in Scotland and in London, where a majority of voters voted to remain in the European Union…

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, demanded treatment similar to that Mrs. May proposed for Northern Ireland. London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, made the same case for his city, the majority of whose voters also opposed Brexit.

“Londoners overwhelmingly voted to remain in the EU and a similar deal here could protect tens of thousands of jobs,” he wrote on Twitter.

In the referendum, Northern Ireland also narrowly voted to remain in the European Union, but the territory was sharply divided, with heavily Protestant areas generally favoring Brexit while predominantly Catholic areas voting to remain in the bloc…

The biggest beneficiary of the situation appears to be the main opposition, the Labour Party. Its hard-left leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who has positioned himself as a prime minister in waiting, said the collapse of the draft agreement “provides further evidence that Theresa May’s government is completely ill-equipped to negotiate a successful deal for our country.”

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