Simon Coveney said one thing yesterday with which many unionists might be able to agree.
Ireland’s deputy prime minister said that he would prefer to see an extension to UK staying in the EU rather than ‘no deal’.
Mr Coveney has been a key figure in one of the most aggressively green Irish governments of recent decades. Under a guise of friendship and diplomacy, he has been unbending in the Brexit talks and has subtly pushed northern nationalist grievances. But he is not wrong to say that an extension is better than ‘no deal’.
It is now October 5. The prospects of a radically new Brexit deal, as is needed, before October 31 are minimal. While the UK must be genuinely prepared to countenance ‘no deal’ if it is to likely to be able to get that new agreement, there will be political uproar when such a hard exit happens. Business needs more time to prepare.
March 29 was a totemic date for Brexit, and now October 31 is the same. We need several more months for negotiations, or, preferably, for a general election that might provide the mandate for a government in such talks.
The Benn bill, which forces the UK either to get a deal or to extend, while it is a ‘surrender’ approach to the talks, just as Boris Johnson says, has altered the landscape and means that the much sought after deal is some way away. London will then have time to ram home the message that there will never be a customs border in the Irish Sea.