Michel Barnier: He has the high ground and he knows it.

This is what happens when you have a referendum on a complicated issue and pretend it’s simple because you don’t understand it.

Nobody in the then-Conservative government understood the implications of Brexit when they called the referendum that happened in 2016; they thought they didn’t have to.

David Cameron thought the referendum was a sweet little dodge to get Tory Brexiteer backbenchers off his own back. The country would vote to stay in the EU and they would have to abide by the decision.

The only problem is the country didn’t vote to stay in the EU – partly because the implications were not explained to us properly and the Leave campaign exploited the lack with lies.

(£350 million a week for the NHS, anybody?)

And what did Mr Cameron do, when he realised he had painted himself into a corner? He quit. He ran away and left his Parliamentary colleagues to deal with the mess he created.

They have failed.

The farce over the Northern Irish border ‘backstop’ plan is just the biggest sign of this failure.

The EU27 have demanded that the UK agree a legally-binding fallback option to ensure there is no hard border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland after Brexit – but all Mrs May has managed to offer is a pathetic fudge.

She is suggesting that the whole of the UK should remain in the customs union for a limited period after the end of the transition period – so it would leave the EU in March 2019 and the single market in December 2020, but stay in the customs union for longer.

The arrangement “will only be in place until the future customs arrangement can be introduced”, which the government “expects” to be the end of December 2021 at the latest.

This is unacceptable to the EU27 because there is no set point at which this ‘backstop’ ends, and Mrs May’s offer makes it possible for the UK to declare it over before a solution is found to the Irish border question.

Not only that, but the UK undertook to maintain full alignment for Northern Ireland with the relevant rules of both the customs union and the single market, and this plan only addresses the former.

There is no agreement, either, on whether European Court of Justice jurisdiction will apply during the backstop period.

And the EU27 will not accept the whole of the UK remaining in the customs union and single market without the obligations of membership.

That is why Michel Barner rejected the UK’s proposals and demanded that Mrs May must “accept the consequences” of leaving the EU.

He told journalists: “Let me be very clear – our backstop cannot be extended to the whole UK.”

And he mocked Mrs May’s ‘Brexit means Brexit’ slogan, saying: “Is it a temporary backstop? No. Backstop means backstop.”

Now Mrs May must take this rejection back to her cabinet – a cabinet that was split bitterly over the proposals, almost to the point of rebellion against her. It seems unlikely that outright warfare between ministers can be avoided now.

In fact, Boris Johnson seems to have fired the first shots already.

And next week, Theresa May will try to reject the many amendments to her EU Withdrawal Bill that would cause even more splits in her party if they are voted through.

She can expect no help from any of the other parties in the Commons – except perhaps her bought-and-paid-for allies in the DUP, but even this is in doubt after her ‘backstop’ failure.

It is the DUP’s demand that there can be no border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK that has made the issue so difficult for her to solve.

Jeremy Corbyn, of course, can do and say anything he likes. All he has to do is keep the pressure on the Tories by demanding that they honour their pledge to uphold the referendum result.

That is the reason Labour continues to say it supports Brexit; it gives the Tories no room to move and pushes them toward self-destruction. Labour can sit and watch as internal tensions within the governing party boil over into internecine warfare.

Personally, I’m buying popcorn.

Source: EU chief Michel Barnier demolishes Theresa May’s Brexit customs plan declaring ‘we’re not going to be intimidated’ – Mirror Online


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