It has been nearly three weeks since Theresa May's Brexit deal historically fell like a lead balloon at the House of Commons. It saw off competition from the first and second votes into the Campbell Case in 1924 to become the biggest government defeat in our nation's history.
Britain's MPs want a renegotiated Brexit, but Jean Claude Juncker doesn't want to talk anymore. That said, the president of the European Commission is set to meet May on Thursday. Critics are wondering what that could possibly achieve unless May has new proposals up her sleeve?
Let's take a look at what's been happening this week:
Jeremy Corbyn who called for no-deal to be taken off the table earlier in the week is today under the microscope for comments he made in 2009. In the video of him speaking, he said the EU is creating a: "military Frankenstein, which will be so damaging to all of us." This outburst has shocked Labour Remainers who were hoping that Corbyn might push for a "People's Vote" in an attempt to overturn the results of the Brexit referendum. Unless he has changed his mind in the past decade, it looks like Corbyn might fancy a way out of the EU.
Jean Claude Juncker claimed last week that the EU won't renegotiate Brexit, prompting criticism of the EU's 'stubbornness'. This week he hit back at criticism that: 'the EU is a slow, bureaucratic machine' by saying: “Let me be very clear, we are not naive free-traders. We will not wait for the sake of it or compromise on our principles for a quick deal.”
Meanwhile, the clock seems to be ticking on the same issues. The backstop has been the biggest thorn in the side of MPs since Brexit talks began, and now it seems to be the issue preventing a deal. EU Brexit negotiator, Michael Barnier is hard at work amending the protocol in the draft withdrawal agreement. He has been talking up the use of technology in the border checking process. He said:
“Checks could take place in different places, onboard vessels, in ports outside Ireland, they could be done using technological means”.
Why is the Hard Border Issue a Big Deal?
The 'backstop' is the UK's insurance policy to ensure the border - and that means between the UK mainland and Ireland too - is free for trade, for people and services.
The possibility of stirring up old conflicts is near the heart of the issue with a hard border. Politicians and the public are wary of stoking a fire that has only in recent times gone cold. But the embers still remain since the Good Friday Agreement was passed over 30 years ago. Already in 2019 'The New IRA' has taken responsibility for a car bombing in the centre of Londonderry.
But there is more to this than the fear of violence, there is also the prospect of what could essentially amount to a border in the Irish Sea. If the UK accepted the EU's wishes, Northern Ireland would simply be a 'common regulatory area' between the UK in Northern Ireland and Ireland.
If the UK signs a deal that sees them leave the single market and the customs union, goods would have to be checked between the UK and Ireland. Both the EU and the UK want to avoid this by thrashing out a trade deal. But if no agreement can be reached between the two parties, the backstop could entrap the UK mainland. Many MPs believe this could affect the trade deals that the UK are able to do with the rest of the world. The DUP already made their thoughts on 'sea checks' quite clear in October 2018, saying they 'won't accept' them. But could May work with Barnier and Juncker to find a compromise to this ever-growing issue?
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