Theresa May must have been responsible for awful atrocities in a past life, in order to some kind of record for being the anti-Midas. The Greek king had the amazing ability to convert anything he touched to gold. But where Theresa is concerned, it seems everything the British Prime Minister touches turns to… well, total carnage.
Perhaps it’s some kind of cosmic karma. Theresa May never argued in favour of Brexit anyway, and was one of the major faces on the Remain campaign. But, never one to pass up an opportunity, May was keen to step into the void after David Cameron’s departure and to announce to the world that “Brexit means Brexit”, whatever that meant. She then gambled with an early election that was supposed to increase her strength in the House of Commons, only to find herself even more beholden to the same hard-line Brexiteers she was trying to escape.
The warning signs were there from day one. Even the meaningless tautology of ‘Brexit means Brexit’ should have set alarm bells ringing. The phrase only evolved in the first place because people were asking legitimate questions about what exactly Brexit would entail. Would it mean pulling out of the EU’s single market or customs union? Nobody seemed to know – and every time we asked, we were simply told ‘Brexit means Brexit’.
GAVAN REILLY'S COLUMN APPEARS EVERY WEEK IN THE MEATH CHRONICLE
That’s why Monday’s unedifying shambles really ought not to have been any surprise. It ought to be a matter of routine that if you’re going to a negotiating table, you know what you can afford to swallow, and what parts will be indigestible. To drag the entire continent to the brink of a deal, but forget to run your ideas past the people keeping you in power first, is kamikaze on a spectacular scale. You can only hope that May was honestly misled about the DUP’s positions, kept in the dark by her own team, and is now accepting blame for other people’s failures.
The real failure here is that Theresa May has allowed herself to become completely tangled up in the red lines drawn by others. The House of Commons has a clear majority in favour of a ‘soft’ Brexit, but May is utterly powerless to pursue it. And by pandering to the red lines drawn by the likes of Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, who have absolutely no standing to determine Brexit policy, May is trapped by walls closing in on three sides.
If she sticks to her original plan of ‘regulatory alignment’ between Northern Ireland and the Republic – thereby putting a wedge between the North and the rest of the UK – the DUP will pull the plug and she’s finished.
If she tries to mollify the DUP by expanding that pledge to the rest of Britain, she’ll be accused of keeping the UK under the control of EU courts – and prompt a coup led by the likes of the bumbling blond buffoon Boris Johnson, a man so preposterous that even his own civil servants tell others to ignore him.
Or, if she goes nuclear and abandons any kind of deal, pursuing the hardest type of Brexit, the current talks will collapse with no trade deal… and she’ll be finished.
The current morass might be a sorry state of affairs but perhaps Ireland would be happier with the devil it knows, rather than the devil it doesn’t.