ONE year ago this weekend, on June 8th, 2017, British Prime Minister Theresa May’s general election gamble backfired badly on her and, since then, her hand has been weakened in the Brexit negotiations that are so crucial to Britain and Europe. The reason she called the election was to seek a bigger majority in Parliament than she had inherited from her predecessor David Cameron, so that she could wield more clout over the troublesome Euro-sceptics in her Conservative Party who were making life difficult for her. Instead, she lost the majority and now presides over a minority government, propped up by the Democratic Unionist Party MPs in Westminster and she’s more under the cosh from the motley crew she has as a Cabinet, most of whom seem to want a ‘hard Brexit.’
All negotiations need to have give and take, but most of the compromises she has proposed so far have been shot down by her own party colleagues, who are not helping her in any constructive manner. This has very serious implications for Ireland – north and south – especially in relation to the border issue, which still has not been realistically addressed as time ticks away in the Brexit talks with the next phase deadline of the EU summit at the end of June looming large.
Last weekend, after waiting and waiting, the Irish government gave Ms May a deadline of a fortnight before this summit to come up with written proposals on how Britain plans to achieve a ‘frictionless’ border between the Republic and Northern Ireland. They certainly would want to be better than British chief negotiator David Davis’ one for a customs ‘buffer zone’ where traders 10 miles either side of the border could operate under both UK and EU rules!