Can we renegotiate the Irish backstop? The EU’s reply in full.
ní féidir leibh
Both Jean Claude Juncker and Michel Barnier have now officially responded to the UK’s demand for a reopening of negotiations and the removal of the backstop to ensure that the Irish border remains open. They said no. They said that vague aspirations for an unspecified alternative do not make a plan. They said in the clearest possible language that they are not going to renegotiate. They said that those who are now demanding a reopening of negotiations are those who themselves negotiated this deal. So why should anyone believe that the UK will adhere to any future deal that can be agreed too. They said that they did not understand the blame game that the UK is now trying to play. It was the closest thing possible that you can get while using measured and polite diplomatic language to saying “Fuck off.”
Last night the House of Commons voted for unicorns, for pots of gold at the end of the rainbow, for we-won-the-war-you-know-ism, for an unspecified spell that would wave a wand and in a magic shower of union fleg sparkles make the Irish border disappear. The EU is not going to accept it.
But far more importantly, this was a vote by the Tories and for the Tories to keep the Tory party together. A vote which, shamefully, 14 Labour MPs supported. To their eternal shame, in an ignominy which will be remembered for generations, the House of Commons decided that it was far more important to achieve a temporary truce within the Conservative party than it was to respect the Good Friday Agreement and ensure peace in Northern Ireland.
The EU, unsurprisingly, is less than impressed. Theresa May now wants to renegotiate the deal with the EU that she herself had already agreed to, and replace it with some vague alternative that she either cannot or will not define. The position of the UK is that it’s now up to the Irish and the EU to come up with a solution. Seriously. No wonder no one trusts the British government.
The negotiating position of the UK is now that a no deal Brexit would damage the EU and therefore the EU will fold. But that’s not how the EU sees it. As far as the EU is concerned Brexit will be a one off event from which it can recover, but the destruction of the single market and customs union which the UK is demanding will last forever. For Britain, the effects of a no deal Brexit will be far more severe, and will last forever. It’s like basing your negotiating strategy on putting a gun to your own head and insisting that you should be stopped from pulling the trigger because someone else will have to clean up the blood spatters.
The House of Commons is a pathetic sham. The two main British political parties are obsessed with scoring short term political points against one another, and incapable of seeing any larger picture. Both of them are in thrall to a myth of a Great Britain bestriding the globe like a mighty colossus, blind to the reality of a medium sized European country that cannot, will not, face up to the truth that it lost its empire generations ago. They court cataclysm because they believe that Britain is too big to fail. It cannot enter their tiny narrow little minds that the political and economic disasters which have befallen other states can befall the UK too, because in their imaginings this is an island nation protected by the unassailable moat of the English Channel.
So they lash out, blaming everyone else for their own failures and shortcomings. It’s never the fault of Blighty. It’s never the fault of Brexit. It’s the fault of the Irish for insisting that they are an independent sovereign state and acting accordingly to protect their own interests. It’s the fault of the French and the Germans for always resenting the British. It’s the fault of the Italians and the Spanish for being jealous. It’s the fault of the Scots for not believing in Britain.
What we are witnessiing in the House of Commons this week is the historic betrayal of the UK by Britain’s political parties. It’s not just Scotland which has been betrayed, sidelined, ignored and traduced. It’s everyone in the UK. The British political class has trashed any residual belief that our European allies might have had in the UK’s good faith. They have put a bonfire under the Irish peace process. They have crapped all over Scotland. And all in pursuit of solving the internal political disagreements of the Conservative party.
Labour is no better. Even now, even at this late stage, even with so little time left to go, Labour is still pursuing unicorns with equal fervour as the Tories. The party’s leadership still talks of the fantasy of a jobs first Brexit, as though there were two years left to negotiate it and not two months. The death of a second EU referendum lies at Labour’s door. The failure to wrest back control of Commons business from an overweening and arrogant minority government with dictatorial tendencies is the fault of Labour.
This is the punching above its weight that Scotland was promised in 2014. This is the respect agenda, the seat at the top table. This is the love. This is the partnership. It’s all as much of a fantasy as the Tories’ alternative arrangements or Labour’s jobs first Brexit.
Back in 2014 Scotland was told that voting for independence meant voting for a romanticised dream, that it was based on emotion and not fact. We see now that it’s Britishness which is unmoored from reality. It’s the UK which defines itself by a romantised vision of a past that never really happened. It’s the UK which trades on emotion and not fact. It’s the UK which demands entitlement and privilege that it will not get.
Common sense is often defined as something that’s self evident and therefore does not need to be proven. Back in 2014 opponents of independence were able to argue that remaining a part of the UK was common sense, that it was up to supporters of independence to prove their case. It’s no longer true that remaining a part of the UK is common sense for Scotland. In the next vote on Scottish independence, a vote which is coming soon, it will be incumbent upon opponents of independence to prove their case. And all they have are fantasies and unicorns, threats and bullying.
Scotland will become an independent nation again because the myth of the union has been destroyed by those who claim to believe in it.
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