The likely shape of Brexit is now up in the air

Morning View
Morning View

Whatever Downing Street might say, the general election result has thrown into the air the future course of Brexit.

If, as was widely expected, Theresa May had increased her parliamentary majority and her government been safe for five years, the UK would probably have had a so-called hard Brexit, and left both the single market and the Customs Union.

It is now possible, although unlikely, that Brexit will not happen at all. The Conservative government, propped up by the DUP, might not survive and if a fresh election is called, Jeremy Corbyn could well win. He is pledged to support Brexit, but has shown no great enthusiasm for either side of the Remain versus Leave debate, and could change his mind if he was dependent on Liberal Democrat and SNP MPs to govern.

The liklihood is that Brexit will still happen, but that a compromise will be reached to soften Brexit, despite the ministerial insistence that the UK will leave both the single market and Customs Union

But the current political situation in the UK is messy. The EU is enjoying Britain’s current uncertainty and will almost certainly use it to drive a harder bargain. The DUP’s role in this, as in so many key matters now, is crucial. But there is still debate to be had within unionism as to the best way forward.

Unionism was not only divided on Brexit itself (mostly pro but with many supporters of Remain too), it has been split as to how hard a Brexit is appropriate. This is because the land border becomes complicated if customs checks are needed.

Some unionists have tried to reconcile this by advocating that we stay in the Customs Union. The DUP manifesto was, at key points, deliberately oblique on the details of Brexit.

This week, however, a deal with Theresa May is due to be sealed. London’s Brexit aims should become clearer, but many things remain highly uncertain. There is still a need to discuss what might best for the UK as a whole and the Province specifically, and time to have that debate.