Brexit deal on 17th October
Time to be realistic
I know what you’re thinking: “what a buzz kill”. Don’t get me wrong, yesterday’s news that a new Brexit deal was reached between the UK and the European Union was a landmark announcement, but I can’t shake that hold your horses feeling that all is not as rosy as it appears on the surface.
If Brexit has taught us anything this past few years, it is that celebrating too soon leads to almost certain disappointment. Until now, Brexit has been like making a square fit into a round hole, with periodic “breakthroughs” threatening to metaphorically round off its vertices and, under belligerent Boris, force itself through at all costs.
The good news
Yesterday’s Brexit deal announcement came after a week of productive talks between Boris Johnson and Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar. These discussions were aimed at finding a “pathway” to compromise and were reportedly the turning point in finding a middle ground on the various issues such as preserving the Good Friday Agreement, keeping a soft border between the North and South and the applicable customs regulations.
So much so, in fact, that Varadkar had this to say on Twitter:
“We have #Brexit Agreement that allows UK leave EU in orderly way. We have unique solution for NI that respects unique history and geography. Its good for Ireland and NI. No hard border. All-island and East-West economy can continue thrive. Protects Single Market & our place in it.”
The protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland has been a very sticky issue throughout negotiations and its importance to the achievement of a deal with Europe is underlined by its inclusion in the first 15 pages of the 64-page revised withdrawal agreement1.
With this in mind, then, Prime Minister Johnson should be congratulated for overcoming an obstacle his predecessor, Theresa May, never could.
However – and getting back to pouring cold water on the Brexit deal – I believe there are three reasons why this good news may not be the catalyst for a smooth withdrawal from Europe on 31st October.
1. UK Parliament: bigger hurdle than Europe
As I’m writing this, I’m seeing the inherent irony of the situation. Having voted to leave Europe, we’ve got our ducks in a row with the 27 nations that comprise the EU and we’ve been handed a free pass to take the deal and do a runner… and not for the first time, either.
However, a group of 600-or-so squabbling toffs in the House of Commons have repeatedly denied 67 million UK citizens, on both sides of the Brexit fence, closure on Britain’s withdrawal from Europe after three long years.
I realise that this is a very simplistic way of looking at the events as they’ve unfolded, but I know it’s causing a wave of anti-politician sentiment in the UK and amongst Brits living abroad.
We will have to keep our fingers crossed for a favourable outcome in tomorrow’s House of Commons vote, otherwise the go-to option will inevitably be yet another extension.
2. A delay is the default option
Following on from the uncertainty of tomorrow’s parliamentary vote is the very real possibility of Brexit being drawn out even more. After all, even if MPs back the new deal, there are no guarantees that there will be enough time to draw up the legislation for it to come into force by 31st October.
And, from what I’ve read, there are serious question marks hanging over Parliament’s backing of the new Brexit deal, with factions like Northern Ireland’s DUP almost certain to oppose it. Some analysts predict a narrow defeat2, with other commentators preferring to use terminology like “it’s on a knife-edge” or “it’s going to be tight”.
If it were to be defeated, an extension until 31st January 2020 would be enforced by law, meaning all options would be back on the table, including a second referendum, vote of no confidence within the Conservative Party and, potentially, another change of leadership.
3. We've seen it all before
Another reason I see this new Brexit deal as a bit of a facade is how it smacks of a PR stunt. Only insiders know the real goings-on, but the sceptical part of me suspects Boris is giving the public a win, knowing full well he'll get crushed in Parliament and also giving more weight to a no-deal Brexit: something I believe he has been gunning for the whole time.
What remains to be seen, then, is whether ministers who formerly abstained in the vote or opposed the Brexit deal will appease the people and deliver what they desperately need.
And the date is set. Tomorrow is the most important date in the timeline of Britain's withdrawal so far, so let's hope for the best.
And let's hope the Members of Parliament partaking in the vote don't give way to stubbornness at the expense of the British people, as per Winston Churchill's rhetoric of: “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile hoping it will eat him last”.
Feed the crocodile, for Christ's sake.