May’s future on the line

Posted By: May 09, 2018


Distributed by Irish National Caucus

“This Editorial from today’s Irish News of Belfast provides useful insights for Members of Congress into some of the politics behind the Brexit issue that affects both Britain and all-Ireland.

No matter how much I supported the Good Friday Agreement, and the good faith of Tony Blair, I always had the persistent doubt, ‘What if  some future British government comes along and it suits them to put England first by downplaying the Good Friday Agreement, what then?’ “—Fr. Sean McManus  

Irish News Editorial. Wednesday, May 9, 2018

There are growing indications that the attempts by the British prime minister Theresa May to finalize what she hoped to present as a pragmatic solution to the Irish border crisis during her Brexit negotiations are on the point of collapse.

The failure by Mrs. May’s cabinet to agree on the latest stage of her plans last week was a particularly bad sign, with claims emerging of irreconcilable differences between senior ministers behind the scenes.

Events took an even more dramatic public turn yesterday when foreign secretary Boris Johnson described one of his own government’s key proposals for post-Brexit customs partnerships as “crazy.”

If Mrs. May hopes to retain her authority, it is difficult to see how she can avoid removing any minister who uses such dismissive terminology over an option which Downing Street has stressed remains very much on the table.

Her verdict on Mr. Johnson will be telling,  but the fact that David Davis has already been allowed to stay for so long in his post as Brexit secretary since his appointment nearly two years ago suggests that she is a weak leader.

Mr. Davis caused particular consternation when he casually admitted during a Westminster committee meeting in December that no impact assessments on the implications for the UK economy of leaving the EU had been carried out.

He also repeatedly avoided visiting any section of the Border region which features so strongly in his list of responsibilities,  and  [he]declined to answer even the most basic of questions about related issues.

When he finally and fleetingly turned up at Middletown in Co Armagh last month, journalists were not told until after his departure and elected representatives in the area received no notification whatsoever about the engagement.

Of course, when Mrs. May herself wanted to see how the agricultural sector was preparing for Brexit, she went to Bangor, in North Down, in March rather than anywhere in the vicinity of the border.

The prime minister, unlike Mr. Johnston and Mr. Davis, has at least indicated an understanding of the dire consequences which will follow in both parts of Ireland if the protracted discussions with the EU do not produce some form of consensus, but she is struggling to push the debate forward.

Irish government sources were quoted yesterday as suggesting that Mrs. May could yet be forced to seek an extension to the two-year timescale for the Article 50 withdrawal process.

Should that happen, it is her own career, rather than the position of her erratic colleagues like Mr. Johnson and Mr. Davis, which will be firmly on the line.