‘The breakdown of the Brexit talks raised the stakes in Northern Ireland even higher.’ Theresa May and Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels yesterday [Image: Xinhua/REX/Shutterstock].

After the right-wing media fell over themselves to claim Labour had nothing to say about the Tories’ Brexit failure, here’s Keir Starmer:

The breakdown of the Brexit talks yesterday was the latest, but most serious, setback so far. It further eroded the prime minister’s already limited authority. It raised the stakes in Northern Ireland even higher. And it increased the risk of negotiations not progressing to the crucial next phase and a long overdue agreement on transitional arrangements.

Failure to make sufficient progress by next week’s European council meeting would have wide-ranging consequences for jobs, investment and the economy. It’s why I’ve said repeatedly that this is a deadline that can’t be missed. But whatever happens in the coming days, Yesterday’s failure in negotiations brought into sharp focus two underlying flaws in the government’s Brexit approach.

The first is its reliance on the DUP to sustain the government in office. I recognise that for any deal on the Irish border to last, it has to have the support of all communities in Northern Ireland. But it sets a very worrying precedent for the tough decisions to come when the prime minister is called out of a meeting at the 11th hour and told by the DUP that the deal is off. That is a terrible signal to send to the EU about the prime minister’s ability to deliver Brexit. It shows that the DUP now has a veto on any proposal she makes.

The second major flaw in Theresa May’s approach concerns the ideological red lines she set out in her 2016 Tory conference speech, and underlined in a speech at Lancaster House. Those red lines swept the customs union and single market off the table, along with any future role for the European court of justice. This was always an extreme interpretation of the referendum, and was always going to pose significant problems on any number of issues – including the future of the Northern Ireland border. The government’s contortions in recent days ought to be a warning that it is on the wrong track.

Similarly, progress would have been far easier if the prime minister had matched Labour’s clear commitment to seek transitional arrangements on the same basic terms as now – including remaining within a UK-EU customs union and the single market during this period.

Source: Theresa May’s Brexit red lines were reckless. Now she has to cross them | Keir Starmer | Opinion | The Guardian


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