Let’s cut through the hot air and fantasy and admit something: the “legally binding” changes to the EU deal that Theresa May just agreed at Strasbourg do not change anything.
She desperately needs to break the impasse that means she cannot get a majority in Parliament for her duff Brexit deal – otherwise the UK crashes out without any deal at all, which may be disastrous for foreign trade.
In practise, this meant finding a way around the Northern Irish border “backstop” deal, set up to ensure that goods crossing the border between that part of the UK and the Republic of Ireland continue to do so in as frictionless a way as possible.
The Democratic Unionist Party, which is propping up Mrs May’s government, has said it will not support any deal that puts Northern Ireland in a different position from the rest of the UK.
So, to try to win back that party’s support, she has secured a “joint statement” in which both the UK and EU commit to replacing the backstop with alternative arrangements by December 2020.
This is supported by a “joint legally-binding instrument” that the UK could use to prevent the EU from keeping this country tied into the backstop indefinitely.
It isn’t what Parliament told her to get.
She was told to ensure that the backstop would be replaced with “alternative arrangements” immediately, and has failed to achieve this.
Instead, the backstop will remain a part of the deal, but operating until December 2020, rather than for an unspecified period of time.
After that, it seems the UK’s government will be expected to magic up some “alternative arrangements” that haven’t been considered by now.
Mrs May is trying to kick the Brexit can down the road – possibly far enough that she won’t have to pick it up again. It seems she wants to pass the poisoned chalice to someone else.
But she won’t get the chance if Parliament sees through her ploy.
She has deliberately failed.
She deserves absolutely no support when MPs vote on her meagre offer. They should vote to extend the Article 50 “notice of intention to leave” period and order her to stop fudging and get a proper deal.
Of course, the wits of Twitter think she already achieved this:
Breaking news from the prime minister’s trip to Strasbourg.
She’s got a deal.
£35 return with Ryanair.
— Peter Grant MP (@PeterGrantMP) March 11, 2019
… Although some disagree [with apologies for the profanity]:
Can Mrs May bring back a new deal from Strasbourg? At this stage it’s unlikely she can bring back a fucking Toblerone bar from the duty free shop.
— paul bassett davies (@thewritertype) March 11, 2019