Following several months of torturous negotiations, in the early hours of Monday the 4th of December, the government of the United Kingdom seemed ready to agree the first part of a Brexit withdrawal deal with its erstwhile partners in the European Union. By the afternoon of the same day, and at the strident behest of the Democratic Unionist Party, the parliamentary allies of the ruling Conservatives, the deal was off the table. For the next three days British officials, Tory backbenchers and DUP agitators exhausted themselves running around in circles, briefing the UK press that a substantially different document, representing a “victory” for Britain over the Continentals, was imminent. On Friday morning, prime minister Theresa May and her diplomatic team were back in Brussels, hailing a new joint UK-EU report, while studiously ignoring all those who pointed out that it was essentially the same document the country had rejected at the start of the week. As far as Europe was concerned all the parties to the negotiations were now ready to move on to the next stage of talks facilitating Britain’s orderly exit from the European Union.
However, on Friday night senior cabinet members in London began to signal Britain’s intention to renege on key commitments in the agreement, to a chorus of approval from xenophobic MPs and journalists. By Sunday evening, government ministers were lining up to voice their disdain for the understanding, renegotiating whole chunks of it live on air. Suddenly deals over the United Kingdom’s partition border on the island of Ireland, payments to the EU budget, and a host of other matters were contingent on new criteria and hurdles introduced by the UK.
Today, the British premier and Conservative Party leader will make Britain’s duplicity even more explicit, as reported by the establishment newspaper, the Telegraph:
Theresa May will insist that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed” on the terms of Brexit after the Irish government claimed that last week’s preliminary deal is binding.
The Prime Minister will say in the House of Commons on Monday that although she is optimistic that a deep and special future deal can be agreed, last week’s agreement is contingent on such an outcome.
As a result of this political and diplomatic chicanery, serious doubt now hangs over the stage one principles agreed last week between the European Union – including Ireland – and the United Kingdom. Far from enhancing the UK’s negotiating position, an ultra-nationalist cabal of Brexiteers and Dupes have undermined confidence in the ability of the present, and perhaps future, London administrations to honour their international commitments. It’s hardly surprising that this is raising alarm bells here at home, as the Irish Times reports:
The British government’s deal with the DUP at Westminster has become a grave threat to political progress in the North, according to a letter from nationalist civic society to the Taoiseach.
An “urgent appeal” to the Irish Government has been made by more than 200 representatives of the education, health and sports sectors, as well as academics and Irish speakers.
They have asked Mr Varadkar for a commitment to “stand for equality and a human-rights-based society and your determination to secure and protect the rights of all citizens in the north of Ireland”.
Signatories include the former GAA president Peter Quinn, the Oscar winners Terry and Oorlagh George, the Hillsborough campaigner Prof Phil Scraton, the former Tyrone GAA captain Peter Canavan, the singer-songwriter Malachi Cush, the playwright Ronan Bennett, the Republic of Ireland soccer player James McClean, and the boxers Michael and Jamie Conlan.
The names of prominent legal figures such as Peter Madden, Pat Fahy, Kevin Winters and Niall Murphy are also attached to the letter.
From the media world, the columnist Brian Feeney and the commentator Patricia MacBride, a former victims commissioner, are among those to have observed “a concerted undermining of the political institutions established under the Good Friday Agreement …”.