Hard Brexit will not be as easy as some “May” think

Posted By: October 03, 2016

Brian Feeney. Irish News (Belfast). Monday, October 3, 2016

Well, now you know. It’s going to be ‘hard Brexit’ as they call it. Repealing the 1972 European Communities Act means repudiating the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice and all the obligations of membership of the EU. Theresa May yesterday emphatically placed the ability to block free movement of people above free trade. The UK will, therefore, leave the single  market.

So much for her talk on Friday of listening to the devolved administrations of the UK. Nicola Sturgeon, Carwyn Jones and our very own terrible twins [ Arlene Foster and Martin Mc Guinness] knew as much about yesterday’s plans to repeal the 1972 Act as somebody going over the Foyle Bridge in the back of a taxi.

On the face of it,  repealing the European Communities Act and incorporating EU law in UK law seems a masterstroke of simplicity. Instead of disentangling 44 years of legislation once you repeal the act you then simply decide which parts of EU legislation you don’t want and throw them out.

It was all planned at a seminar in All Souls College Oxford on September 9 and written up in a document published by the right-wing Centre of Social Justice and the Legatum Institute.

One of the many worrying aspects of these bodies is that they are influenced by some of the best known anti-EU nutters in the Conservative Party including John Redwood, Peter Lillley and Iain Duncan Smith.

David Davis, whom the Irish government had to remind in July that Ireland is an independent state, also attended the seminar. Remarks by these guys over the years indicate almost complete ignorance of the EU’s workings. Depressingly, Theresa May has apparently accepted their recommendations in tow.

It may appear to be a masterstroke of simplicity but pushing the ‘Great Repeal Act’ with its backward sounding archaic title through Parliament by May 2018 as planned will be more difficult than Mrs. May imagines. There’s a large pro-EU majority in the House of Commons and it’s reckoned there’s a 6-1 majority in favor  of Remain in the Lords.

When it comes to repealing bits of EU law the Brexiteers don’t like, there’s going to be open warfare in the Conservative Party.

Theresa May’s working majority is less than the number of ministers she sacked in July. Already, former senior ministers like Nicky Morgan and Anna Soubry have been vocal in their opposition to manifestly daft pronouncements by David Davis and Liam Fox. Anna Soubry called Fox’s remarks on free trade “delusional”.

This is where the DUP’s eight MPs see their chance. In clause by clause wrestling on the floor of the House of Commons they hope to bargain on the Boundary Commission

proposals (which will make Belfast a Unionist-free zone) or seek  abolition of the Parades Commission,  in return for supporting anything May proposes.

It has happened before as British governments, Labour and Conservative, have bargained peace and stability here for a late night majority in Westminster as Dublin watched helplessly.

Remember the shenanigans in the mid-90s when John Major had a majority of one on Europe and Unionists forced him to procrastinate until the first IRA ceasefire collapsed? Difficult times ahead.