The Brexit negotiations seem to be collapsing under the combined onslaught of the Brussels bureaucrats and the UK free marketeers, who are using the Irish backstop as leverage to tip the negotiations towards their respective positions. The backstop in this context means avoidance of a hard border between the Republic of Ireland (EU) and Northern Ireland (GB).
A sui generis device, perhaps crafted by the bureaucrats in Brussels, just to ensure that the EU maintains a firm grip on the Brexit negotiations, so as to maintain the dominancy of the EU single market. Unintendedly, the backstop has also been deployed by the free marketeers to advance a case for Britain exiting the EU on World Trade tariffs, or a ‘catastrophic no deal Brexit’.
To that end, the backstop arguments can be best described as political bickering between the bureaucrats and free marketeers, who seems unwilling to change their respective positions on Brexit. In my view, the backstop arguments are deployed to distract the focus from the real issues of Brexit. What seems clear so far, is that focusing on backstop leaves Great Britain entangled in the heat of political deadlocks.
Such deadlocks are bound to force the Government to capitalise on any flimsy legislative loophole, which may not be so desirable to use, but a necessity for government survival. Such was the case when Theresa May’s Government attempted to remain silent on the real implications of the backstop deal.
In response, Parliament exercised its supreme power to order for immediate release of the advice provided by the Attorney General (AG), which includes among others the permanency of the backstop. Indeed, the Government was found guilty of contempt of the Parliament. By direct implication, the Government would have been sent to prison for committing an offence if it were individual. But for obvious pragmatic reason, it was not possible for the government to spend time behind bars.
The point to take from this symbolic ruling, is the supremacy of the Parliament’s legislative power. As a representative of the people’s voice, Parliament’s authority cannot be disregarded without consequences. It is my firm belief that the exercise of core state powers, such as the power to accede to international treaties and distribution of national wealth, must remain with Parliament, if the interest of the public are to be served and preserved. This proposition follows the same reasoning in which Lord Justice Coke an eminent jurist, emphatically upheld the supremacy of Parliament over the Monarch.
The extent to which Theresa May’s Government has been pursuing its case in order to forge a compromised deal seems remarkable, as it continues to be frantically searching for a backstop solution by agreeing and disagreeing with everyone, namely the free marketeers and the bureaucrat, without providing a tangible alternative, such as a people’s vote. The Government’s efforts leave Great Britain nowhere as with no solution to Brexit has been found. I suggest here that the legitimate solution is to hold a second referendum or election, so British people can ultimately decide the nature of Britain’s international relations.
What is crystal clear is that the backstop maintains the EU as a dominant political institution, which makes rules to control the balance of world power. It gives the EU the control over jurisdictions, including Northern Ireland (a territory in Great Britain). For the proponents of the backstop, it is a temporary insurance policy necessary to protect the integrity of a single market, albeit its temporality is doubtful given that it can only be removed if the EU 27 members agreed. In fact, some suggested that it would render UK as a vassal state of the EU. This explains why Mr Boris Johnson deserted Theresa May’s government as he described the backstop as an act of blackmail on the part of Brussel’s bureaucrats.
Unsurprisingly, the nationalist, the hardliners, and the remainers are all united in one spirit against the backstop deal, as they are so unwilling to stomach any suggestion that reduces Great Britain to a vassal state; indeed it is impossible to swallow such a proposition.
The disparity in views of the different groups on Brexit is a reflection of the cumbersome nature of Brexit negotiations. In my view, the backstop argument is an unnecessary battle between the free marketeers (those who are resentful of EU regulatory regime) and European socialists, who like to regulate the market for the collective interests of all citizens. Indeed, the backstop argument is a distraction from the real issues that led to Brexit. These include failures of the political class to invest in public institutions, and uncontrolled migration.
So, it cannot be plausibly explained why Britain and the EU did not anticipate the problems a hard border would create for the Good Friday agreement – everyone agrees that the seminal agreement that led to the long-lasting peace in Northern Ireland must be preserved. Therefore, I do not think any of the parties want to see the derailment of the Good Friday Agreement, the consequences of which seems undesirable for all parties. Judging by the positions maintained by all parties of the Brexit negotiation, it is right to infer that no one wants a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. By default, the relationship between EU and Great Britain is so intertwined and consequently inseparable.
From now onwards, Britain is at crossroads, as the backstop conundrum continues to have backstopping effects on Brexit at the delight of Brussel’s bureaucrats. In the meantime, Theresa May seems like a Prime Minister who cannot be removed by a coup from within her own party, or the Labour Party. Indeed, she is doubling on her efforts to cling to power in the extended hands of the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party of the Northern Ireland).
As the Brexit saga continues, we shall see who will blink first?
By Solomon Demba