DOES European Union negotiator Michel Barnier have a vested interest in boosting Theresa May’s credibility as a defender of UK national interests?
What other conclusion explains Barnier’s insistence on publishing his draft legal document on a “common regulatory area” between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland that would consider the six counties as “part of the customs territory” of the EU?
Nothing could be more calculated to wind up the Democratic Unionist Party MPs on which May’s government depends for support.
Nor should it have been difficult to imagine the Prime Minister replying to the provocation in Parliament by declaring her adamant rejection of any suggestion of a customs border between Northern Ireland and Britain.
She was right to say that no British PM could agree to a customs border being set in the Irish Sea.
Loyal servants of the EU neoliberal superstate suggest that division of the UK by an internal customs border could be obviated by extending the EU customs union and single market to encompass Britain too — that is, by the UK remaining within the EU.
This would mesh well with the traditional EU contempt for democracy when national elections or referendums run counter to the will of the Brussels bureaucracy, as Irish, Dutch, French and Greek voters can confirm from their own experiences.
In all previous cases, the national political elite in each country has subsequently conspired with Brussels to frustrate their people’s decision.
As a Remain voter linked to the finance sector, the PM may well have harboured a desire to do likewise, but this would have proven difficult, so she has opted to negotiate leaving the EU but with an agenda of championing City interests over those of working people.
This requires taking on the dubious persona of a doughty defender of the national cause in the face of combined opposition by 27 other countries, even though her government’s responses since the referendum result was announced have been confused, dilatory and submissive.
There is no reason at all, in the short or long term, why the current arrangement on the island of Ireland, where the border separates the eurozone from the sterling area, should not continue, just as the UK-Ireland common travel area, first agreed in 1923, should be maintained.
No serious politician in Ireland or Britain wants a so-called “hard” border in Ireland or seeks to undermine the Good Friday Agreement and subsequent peace process.
Neither government of its own free will would return to the days of border guards, customs posts and queues of halted vehicles. Only Brussels floats the imposition of such a scenario.
Yet Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar claims, following the EU official line, that refusal to recognise Northern Ireland as part of EU customs territory poses risks to the peace process.
From where? From which armed groups? This is nonsense and he knows it.
This is not a denial of Irish national rights. The Morning Star has always supported the goal of a reunited Ireland. It was dealt with in the Good Friday Agreement, with acceptance that it is dependent on the freely expressed choice of the Irish people.
Allowing EU customs territory to encompass Northern Ireland is simply and self-evidently about extending the writ of Brussels.
Theresa May has staggered from one crisis to another in her stewardship of the process of the UK leaving the EU, but she has been handed an easy propaganda victory by being able to swat aside this obvious EU land grab.
Questions remain. Who set up this easy victory for her and why?
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