Break-up of Brexit or break-up of the UK?

Jon Danzig |

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Today’s big news is that Northern Ireland could get a special relationship with the EU to enable no-border with Ireland.

It’s being called “regulatory alignment” between Northern Ireland and the EU. Nobody is yet sure what that means.

But in any other name, it might be called staying in the EU Single Market.

Or in two words: the ‘Norway option’.

Of course, nothing about Brexit can be simple or straightforward. We will need to await further clarification (not just about this, but about all of Brexit. Nobody knows what Brexit means).

But on the face of it, it seems that the proposal is that Northern Ireland will have a ‘special relationship’ with the EU, but the rest of the UK won’t.

Immediately Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland, Tweeted to say:

‘If one part of UK can retain regulatory alignment with EU and effectively stay in the single market (which is the right solution for Northern Ireland) there is surely no good practical reason why others can’t.’

She later Tweeted:

‘If it’s not some kind of Norway status for whole UK, it must mean some kind of special deal for NI. Has to be one or the other. And if latter, why not also for Scotland, London & Wales (if it wants it)?’

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, Tweeted:

‘Huge ramifications for London if Theresa May has conceded that it’s possible for part of the UK to remain within the single market & customs union after Brexit. Londoners overwhelmingly voted to remain in the EU and a similar deal here could protect tens of thousands of jobs.’

The BBC’s Political Editor Tweeted,:

‘Scotland and Wales will be looking v. v. closely too – if NI can have special deal why can’t they?’

But the DUP – upon whom the Tory government relies upon to stay in power – were having none of it. They said it “will not accept” a deal on the Irish border being brokered by Prime Minister, Theresa May.

Arlene Foster, the DUP leader, ruled out accepting any move “which separates Northern Ireland economically or politically from the rest of the United Kingdom”.

She added:

“We have been very clear. Northern Ireland must leave the EU on the same terms as the rest of the United Kingdom.

“We will not accept any form of regulatory divergence which separates Northern Ireland economically or politically from the rest of the United Kingdom.

“The economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom will not be compromised in any way.”

Brexit is unravelling. We knew it would, because it simply doesn’t make sense. It has not been thought through with any measure of forethought or intelligence.

To maintain an open border between Northern Ireland and Ireland almost certainly means that Northern Ireland would have to stay in the EU Single Market in all but name.

Tory Brexiters believe that a hard border could be avoided by the use of clever technology. But that is unlikely to be acceptable (or even achievable).

If Northern Ireland maintains a ‘special relationship’ with the EU, then why not Scotland, Wales, London – everywhere, with perhaps the exception of Boston, Great Yarmouth and Cornwall?

Either Brexit breaks up, or the United Kingdom breaks up. It seems now that it may come down to one, or the other.

There is an alternative, of course.

Let’s get back to normal. Let’s keep our Union of the United Kingdom intact, and our membership of the European Union intact.

Just think how much money we’ll save by just stopping this madness. Were things really so bad before 23 June 2016?

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