Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Game of bluff with EU a dangerous one

Prime Minister Theresa May
Prime Minister Theresa May

Editor's Viewpoint

Prime Minister Theresa May and the DUP feel that they have both had a good result as a consequence of the latest votes in the House of Commons.

For once Mrs May has managed to rally her party behind her on a potential way forward on Brexit. And the DUP can argue the House has endorsed its position that the withdrawal agreement containing the backstop must be renegotiated.

But any feeling of satisfaction the two have just underlines the shambolic nature of the UK's position on Brexit.

The Prime Minister signed the withdrawal agreement containing the backstop late last year and the other 27 EU countries are in no mood to tear that up and start again.

There has been a chorus of EU leaders telling Mrs May that no matter what the UK Parliament wants, the latest ploy will not work.

Of course, it is only to be expected that these leaders will continue to play hardball. But they, like the UK, know the clock is ticking towards the scheduled March 29 exit date.

If the current impasse cannot be solved then we have the no-deal exit all sides say they don't want and which, by common consent, would affect Northern Ireland and the Republic most severely. The major problem with the UK Brexiteers is that they know what they don't want - the Irish backstop - but have no real alternatives to replace it.

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All the vague talk of technological advances and customs checks away from the border do not stand up to scrutiny.

One puzzle that has never been explained is why Mrs May thought she could get the backstop deal past the DUP.

It was a red line from the date it was first mooted. Now she is bowing to the party's demand.

If it is accepted that businesses and farmers are motivated by pragmatic rather than political niceties, then their support for the existing imperfect withdrawal deal should carry some weight. Yet their views - and some very big international players have expressed concern about the current situation - seem to be sidelined in favour of political ideology.

However, it is MPs who will eventually decide how the UK leaves the EU, and it seems the mood among those at Westminster is to flex their muscles against the seemingly immovable force of the EU. Is this all a game of call my bluff or an exercise in who blinks first?

Whichever it is, the result will affect the lives of millions for decades to come.

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