Dublin has helped bring about ‘incredible’ events Coveney decries

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial
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An interesting split emerged last night in the House of Commons.

The DUP supported the government in a motion in which it was defeated.

The motion endorsed the government’s negotiating strategy, but the European Research Group abstained.

This put the DUP and ERG on different sides of the debate.

They have been increasingly in alliance in the Brexit turmoil at Westminster.

While the DUP’s support for the government is understandable, given that it is still in a confidence and supply arrangement with the Conservatives, the ERG has two good reasons to take the position it does.

It is right to say that the government has been too keen to rule out ‘no deal’, because in doing so it shatters the UK’s negotiating strength.

But also, the government shows little sign of trying to get rid of the backstop, if Theresa May’s comments in Belfast are a guide, or if the reported comments of the Brexit negotiator Olly Robbins are correct.

Meanwhile, Ireland’s foreign affairs minister has been sneering at the “incredible” goings on in Parliament.

Yet his government’s intransigence has been a central cause of those supposedly incredible events.

Like his Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Mr Coveney is saying that regulatory alignment between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland should be the “default position” if there is no-deal Brexit.

But if regulatory alignment, which necessarily means some loss of sovereignty, was as obvious as that, there would be no controversy over the backstop.

And if the EU is not going to budge as Mr Coveney says, then a ‘no deal’ ought to be inevitable — but it is far from clear that the government has the will for that.

Brexiteers should endorse a short extension of Article 50 to July 1, to give the UK three more months to prepare for exit.