Brexit ambitions outlined - May ignores EU founding principles

THE gods who order these things have a perverse sense of humour. 

Brexit ambitions outlined - May ignores EU founding principles

Or, at the very least, they enjoy goading those loosely described as live-and-let-live, progressive, European liberals, the kind of people who care about their neighbours, their diet and cats; the kind of people who fret about the environment and wonder what can be done to confront escalating inequity in this tooth-and-claw world.

Those gods decreed that the week begin at Davros, capitalism’s annual high consistory where 2,500 heads of state, political or academic leaders, as well as the grandest captains of industry, discuss things like “Squeezed and Angry: How to Fix the Middle Class Crisis”.

The week will close with the all-but-incomprehensible image of Donald Trump as America’s president.

That the celebrations in Washington — headline act Toby Keith — may play second fiddle to legendary jollies at Davros is yet another indication of where power really lies.

As if those events were not enough to provoke renewed angst in espressoland the gods organised a revival of the internecine war that has cast a shadow over this island for as long as history has been recorded.

Stormont’s decade of power-sharing, the epitome of the kind of compromise favoured by live-and-let-live liberals, came crashing down when arrogance facilitated thinly-disguised opportunism.

But the gods were not finished teasing; they saved a coup de grâce — the long-anticipated announcement by Britain’s Prime Minster Theresa May that she plans a hard Brexit.

Speaking in Lancaster House, where Margaret Thatcher once championed the EU’s single market and where the end of many an imperial adventure was formalised, Mrs May confirmed Britain will not to try to remain a member of the single market.

However, she hopes to secure access for British business to the continent without barriers, tariffs or new obstacles.

That she outlined these ambitions and the parallel ambition to control borders — “We will get control over the number of people coming to Britain from the EU” — suggests she believes the litany of EU leaders who have insisted that the four principles underpinning the European project are non-negotiable were less than sincere.

At this juncture, it is very difficult to see how this fundamental conflict might be resolved. Equally, it is very difficult to imagine how Mrs May’s wish that the common travel area arrangements with this country be maintained.

She said the UK government would “make it a priority to deliver a practical solution” as quickly as possible but this seems a binary challenge: there is either a border or there is not.

It is unlikely too that the two countries most affected by this possibility will have the final, decisive say in the matter.

Yesterday’s speech brought some clarity to a situation that is naturally confused and unsettled — as it will be for quite some time — but it is important to realise that this speech reflects the British position, but not that of the 27 loyal members of the EU.

It would be very foolish to imagine that the endgame of Brexit will not better reflect that balance.

Mrs May has opted for a hard Brexit and it is likely she will get one, maybe even one far harder than she anticipates.

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