Prime Minister Theresa May’s mistakes are coming back to haunt her. Losing her majority in a snap election, a desperate DUP deal and a double dose of Brexit bungling may have just neutralized negotiations with Brussels.
On Monday, negotiations with the European Union (EU) over Brexit were looking good. Britain and Brussels have been wrangling over the big three issues for months – EU citizens’ rights, the Brexit bill and the Irish border.
President of the Commission, Jean Claude Juncker was “positive” May was ready to sign on the dotted line. And then it all came crashing down with a phone call from Belfast.
Turns out, leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) Arlene Foster, had not actually agreed to the deal on the table, forcing May to walk away empty-handed.
Downing Street had not explained that, apparently, it was planning on leaving Northern Ireland in regulatory parallels with the European Union, and the Republic of Ireland. The rest of the UK, would be under different, post-Brexit regulations.
Foster was furious, insisting the plan gives in to Brussels and breaks up the Union. Neither the Republic or the North wants a hard border – and this was May’s only solution.
Now, she must choose between the support of Brussels and the backing of the DUP since finding another solution before December 14 seems an impossibility. May cannot afford to lose the support of the 10 DUP MPs propping up her Westminster majority, which allows her to push through Tory plans in Parliament.
With just days to go before the European Council (EC) meets to decide on the deal from the first round of negotiations, the Downing Street designs are in tatters. If they fail to solve the big three, talks will be suspended for three months – giving the UK just one year to draw up a deal or risk crashing out of the Union.
Politicians in the UK are furious. Jeremy Corbyn wrote on Twitter that May’s mistakes are now showing.
“The reason for today’s failure in the Brexit talks is the grubby deal the Tories did with the DUP after the election,” he said.
“Each passing day provides further evidence that @theresa_may’s Government is completely ill-equipped to negotiate a successful deal for our country.”
Corbyn’s predecessor Ed Miliband was livid at the failure to unite the DUP with the Tories before heading to Brussels.
“What an absolutely ludicrous, incompetent, absurd, make it up as you go along, couldn’t run a piss up in a brewery bunch of jokers there are running the government at the most critical time in a generation for the country,” he tweeted.
What an absolutely ludicrous, incompetent, absurd, make it up as you go along, couldn’t run a piss up in a brewery bunch of jokers there are running the government at the most critical time in a generation for the country.
— Ed Miliband (@Ed_Miliband) December 5, 2017
The UK had managed to calm the EU with a gigantic offer of up to £60 billion (US$80.5 billion) – up from the £20 billion offered just months ago after a furore over the Brexit bill. And Foster will not back down after her 11th-hour intervention.
“We have been very clear. Northern Ireland must leave the EU on the same terms as the rest of the United Kingdom,” Foster said in a statement. “We will not accept any form of regulatory divergence which separates Northern Ireland economically or politically from the rest of the United Kingdom.
“The economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom will not be compromised in any way. Her Majesty’s Government understands the DUP position. The Prime Minister has told the House of Commons that there will be no border in the Irish Sea.
“The Prime Minister has been clear that the UK is leaving the European Union as a whole and the territorial and economic integrity of the United Kingdom will be protected.”
Top Tories are now backing Foster, causing yet another crack in the cabinet. Not to mention throughout the fractured backbench.
Iain Duncan Smith, the former Conservative leader, told the Guardian the prime minister was “fully aware that when it comes to the border issue Northern Ireland remains an integral part of the UK and therefore there cannot be any regulatory divergence between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.”
May will not attempt to come to a deal with Northern Ireland which will also be supported by the Republic and Brussels.