The weird turn that Brexit has taken

The UK political scene has been in turmoil ever since the vote to leave the European Union as to how the separation would be carried out and the costs of it. Yesterday, prime minister Theresa May, after meeting with EU leaders, announced the results of negotiations on the framework and it has stunned pretty much everyone and infuriated those who campaigned hard for the UK to leave.

One of the major obstacles that May had to face was that posed by Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK and thus would leave the EU along with Scotland, Wales, and England, and the Republic of Ireland which is an independent nation and is part of the EU. Since those two entities share the same island, this raised the issue of what to do with their common land border. After decades of hostility between the Protestant majority region of Northern Ireland and the Catholic majority region of Ireland, a peace deal was arrived at the resulted in an open border that everyone seems to like and no one wants to get rid of. But if Ireland stays within the EU and Northern Ireland leaves, that would require a hard border with customs and immigrations officials, etc. patrolling it, an idea that was bitterly opposed by pretty much everyone in both regions. (Maybe they could have asked ardent wall-lover Donald Trump’s advice about what kind of hard border would serve their purposes.)

Anyway, May’s agreement promised that the UK would be in full alignment with all the EU’s trade and economic polices and the rules governing its internal market and customs policies, thus eliminating the need for a hard border.

Of course, this raised the obvious question of what the point is of UK leaving the EU at all, especially since the UK will also have to pay the EU 40 billion euros as part of the deal and the UK would also forego any role in any future rule making, while being bound by the rules. The ardent pro-Brexiteers are absolutely livid, accusing May of selling them out.

Robert Mackey lays out what May agreed to and the reaction.


  1. anat says

    Looks like this time it is the UK’s turn to be the servant that ate the rotten fish, received the beatings, and returned the money.

    (Not sure if this folktale is known in English, it is one where a servant is required to buy fish for a feast, the servant pockets the money and gets some rotten fish the trader was going to throw out. When the fish turns out to be inedible the servant is given a choice of 3 punishments -- eat the fish himself, receive beatings, or return the money. He tries eating the fish, when he can’t stomach it he chooses the beatings, but after a few of those he ends up returning the money.)

  2. jazzlet says

    And as many remainers feared this is going to be the worst of both worlds, we have to follow what the EU decides about all the EU’s trade and economic polices and the rules governing its internal market and customs policies without any input into them. Plus we are losing several significant EU institutions and we still don’t know what is going to happen about things like EU citizens working in the UK which they do in large numbers in several sectors. It is a bloody mess.

  3. Silentbob says

    (off topic)

    @ 4 anat

    That’s an odd fable, since giving back the money isn’t actually a “punishment”. There doesn’t seem to be a downside to theft if the worst that can happen is you lose what you gained, thereby breaking even.

    (/off topic)

  4. EigenSprocketUK says

    The N.Ireland — Republic of Ireland dichotomy was obvious at the outset though it didn’t get as much publicity as it should have. We’re still committed to spending a fortune to get a far worse outcome than if we had stayed in the EU, no matter how “soft” a Brexit we end up with.
    Those few who voted to leave were, mostly, in favour of: taking back control and mumble mumble sovereignty something (we’ll have less of that); spending up to £350million per week on the health service instead of on the EU (sorry, we are now €60bn poorer, and if there is any money then the landowners are first in the queue, not poor plebs who need health care); having control of immigration (we’ll definitely have less of that); being able to complete a set of mythical but astounding trade deals within two months (ahahaha we’ve done precisely naff-all in 18 months, though we did do naff-all in excruciating detail).
    And, to cap it all — none of this new supposed “full acquis” with remaining part of the customs union or the single market (which is far from certain) will prevent the loss of “passporting” rights for the UK’s financial sector to trade in Euros, or the loss of the Euratom treaty upon which hospitals and research universities rely.
    Even the good news is bad awful news.

  5. Holms says

    Robert Mackey lays out what May agreed to and the reaction.

    This summary had better be a single line reading something like “Brexit was always a fucking moronic idea foisted on the public by self-aggrandising arseholes who actually thought it would fail.”

  6. Lassi Hippeläinen says

    Even if May can somehow talk her own party to a deal, all isn’t clear yet. The EU must accept the deal unanimously. That means, for example, that all the Polish plumbers in UK have a voice. The relationship between Poland and the EU is a bit strained at the moment, and the Poles will probably be happy to cause more friction.

    “After decades of hostility between the Protestant majority region of Northern Ireland and the Catholic majority region of Ireland,…”
    That may not be true anymore. In the 2001 census, non-catholic xians were leading catholics (45.6% vs. 40.2%) but by 2011 they were close to even (41.6% vs. 40.8%). At that rate the catholics have majority by now.

  7. Lassi Hippeläinen says

    …and the above comment meant to say that NI may have a catholic majority. The republic has always had it.

  8. anat says

    Silentbob, by returning the money the servant would be admitting his crime. If he could have eaten the fish he could have saved face and retained the veneer of innocence. Now everyone knows he is a thief. In the end he probably gets exiled because nobody trusts him anymore.

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