In the UK, Boris Johnson has just had a rather nasty setback in trying to get support for his Brexit package. It looks remarkably like the last one – which failed three times in parliament. It looks like the clone with tweaks will fail again.
The background to this is that the DUP vote is going to be absolutely critical to get any legislation into parliament with any hope of it passing. Earlier reporting gives the background
Boris Johnson is in a race against time to secure the Democratic Unionist party’s backing for his newly negotiated Brexit deal as EU leaders said they were ready to approve the agreement on Thursday if the prime minister succeeds.
Plans to publish a full legal text ahead of the leaders’ summit had to be put on hold to the frustration of EU officials after the DUP raised a series of objections to the tentative agreement.
With time short, Johnson told a meeting of Conservative MPs he was hopeful of a deal but it felt like he was on the Hillary Step of Mount Everest while the summit was “shrouded in mist”.
The prime minister appeared to have the party’s hardline Eurosceptics onboard, including Steve Baker, who said Johnson had briefed them that the whole of the UK was leaving the customs union. But they also added a note of caution that they could not vote for any Brexit deal without seeing a legal text. The 21 former Tory MPs who have recently lost their whip could also rebel.
Basically the Irish on both sides of the border were always going to be the main stumbling block since this could effectively tear up the basis of the Good Friday agreement that ultimately forged enough of a political consensus to stop the civil war in Northern Ireland.
Which makes it surprising that they weren’t brought into the agreement a lot earlier. But that does appear to be the trademark of the Boris government just as much as it was during the lead up to Brexit. Brash over-confidence and massive under delivery.
But this will dominate the politics in the UK and Europe for the next few days. It is going to have to get unanimous approval from the EU members including the government of Eire, pass the British Parliament – where it will need to rely on the support of at least some of the members that Boris effectively tossed out of his Tory party last month for disagreeing with him over his actions about Brexit, and pass into legislation.
I suspect that Boris Johnson will try to eat his words and try to get a third extension of time from the EU. Otherwise Boris is going to find out the real underlying powers of Parliament are somewhat more than he can avoid before this comes anywhere close to passing its third reading in parliament.
The problem with getting actual agreement on Brexit was the flawed process followed to get to it. Referendums should never be singletons. That just leads to a great opportunities to lie without responsibility, as was so apparent in the UK’s Brexit referendum. With referendums, there needs to be a definite plan to be voted for or against in at least one of the referendums.
While both sides exaggerated, what was very clear in 20:20 hindsight was that there was a pretty deliberate campaign to do so on the Brexit side. There are multiple ongoing inquiries into breaches of campaign financing and other breaches of campaign law.
The Brexit side tried to make it look like the whole process would be almost completely painless. Which it was never going to be bearing in mind the regional differences within the UK. The problem has been in details, most of which weren’t highlighted in the Brexit campaigns. Like the implications to the Northern Ireland peace agreement.
What has been apparent is that the EU has been leaning over backwards to be reasonable about the intent of the UK to leave. They have also been responsible about their previous obligations to members like Eire and the agreements like Northern Ireland and many other previously agreed ongoing programs.
But really all of these things should have been part of the detail of a second referendum. In NZ referendums that have succeeded have all been two part referendums. First to determine a interest in pursuing an option. The second being an option between the status quo and enabling legislation so everyone is really sure what they’re voting for. That has allowed us to avoid the kind of quandary that we’re seeing in the UK.