By all accounts, yesterday’s meeting of the British cabinet to discuss the latest twists in the country’s stalled withdrawal negotiations with the European Union was a pretty acrimonious affair as government ministers argued with each other while the Prime Minister, Theresa May, sought to keep control. However the confrontations apparently abated when it was announced that a plan was being drawn up to use a flotilla of vessels to ferry food and medicine to the United Kingdom in the event of a no-deal Brexit, eliciting a stunned silence in the room. What UK politician wants to be associated in the history books, or at the hustings, with that act of national humiliation?
Talking of which, the suggestion that it was the EU which proposed an extension to Britain’s 2020 transition from Europe has been strongly refuted by Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council. The former Polish premier told a session of the European Parliament that the idea came from London, not Brussels. And in a pointed reference to Nigel Farage, the ex-leader of UKIP, the once influential ultra-nationalist party in the United Kingdom, he noted the willingness of the anti-EU camp in the UK to collapse the twenty year old Irish-British peace process in order to achieve Brexit:
“We want to avoid a hard border in Ireland. But there is no guarantee that we can do it. And you know why, Mr Farage? Because Brexit is de facto a political decision to establish the border between the union and the UK. Brexit is a project to separate the UK from the EU.
I don’t know what is going to be the result of the negotiations but I do know that it is the Brexiteers who are 100% responsible for bringing back the problem of the Irish border.”
This view was echoed by Guy Verhofstadt, the Brexit representative for the European Parliament.
“We are now in a battle of the figures. Mrs May says 95% has been agreed, Michel Barnier says 90% has been agreed. I know Britain has always had difficulties with the metric system. If it is 90% or 95% or 99%, if there is no solution for the Irish border, for our parliament it is 0% that is agreed…”