ONE has to feel some pity for British Prime Minister Theresa May as she tries her best to ‘sell’ the withdrawal deal she negotiated for Britain from the European Union and secure enough votes to have it accepted in Parliament in Westminster next week. Ironically, during the 2016 Brexit referendum campaign, along with her predecessor David Cameron, Mrs May was of the opinion that the United Kingdom should remain in the EU, however the Eurosceptic wing of their Conservative Party, along with some strange political bedfellows like UKIP, managed to persuade English voters in particular that they would be better off leaving.
Cameron quickly passed the poisoned chalice to May and she was left to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty to begin the two-year process of the UK’s exit from the EU, which expires on March 29th next year, whether or not there is a withdrawal deal. What she negotiated doesn’t seem to be a ‘hard’ enough Brexit for many in her own party, and certainly not for the Democratic Unionist Party which is propping up her minority government, so it is difficult to envisage where she is going to muster enough support internally for it.
Rejection of this deal could lead to the UK crashing out of the EU next Spring and dire consequences would ensue, especially for Ireland – North and South – as we would be caught in the economic crossfire as borders would have to be set up and trade tariffs imposed, while the very essence of the Good Friday Agreement would be undermined.
Unfortunately, Mrs May is clinging to the vague hope that, during the course of her current charm offensive, those who don’t think the deal she has negotiated is good enough for them may come to the realisition that it is the lesser of two evils when compared to the alternative scenario of crashing out without a withdrawal agreement. The latter course would seriously damage the future relationship between Britain and the EU – Ireland most especially, given our close trading relationship and, most damagingly, raise the spectre of the North-South border being reinstated.