Once more, Brexit negotiations are stalled, and over an all too predictable sticking point - the Irish border. How does the UK leave the Single Market and Customs Union, yet avoid any kind of hard border with the Republic, which will remain part of both bodies? This subject has attracted the attention of the Member for times long past Jacob Rees Mogg, who appears to have forgotten that Ireland is now a sovereign nation.
Rees Mogg has given an interview to Kevin Schofield of Politics Home, who was formerly with the Murdoch Sun. Here, we get a glimpse of how fearful Theresa May must be of the so-called European Reform Group of Tory MPs, held by many commentators, and indeed some Tory MPs opposed to their stance, as a party within a party, when Schofield notes “Rees-Mogg does not demur when I suggest that he has regular meetings with Theresa May”. He’s a back bencher, not a minister. Think about that.
But it is his attitude to the Irish border question that shows not just that Theresa May’s indulgence is misguided, but also that Rees Mogg’s grasp of realpolitik is not as he might believe. “Theresa May has already made clear that the EU’s backstop suggestion that Northern Ireland remains in the Customs Union as a way of avoiding a hard border is unacceptable to her, and Rees-Mogg unsurprisingly concurs” tells Schofield.
So far, so loyal and routine. But then the mood darkens. “He is less enamoured with her position, set out in her Mansion House speech, that Britain must work with the EU to solve the problem. ‘I think the Prime Minister was being generous to the European Union in that context,’ he says … ‘She wants to have friendly relations in the negotiations, but it’s a question of nuance and I think they’re the stick in the muds in this and have come up with a solution that is wholly impossible for the United Kingdom to accept, that we should take Northern Ireland out of the United Kingdom’”. Er, they haven’t.
What the EU negotiators are putting forward is a solution which can be made to work, and by inference suggesting that, if the UK side has a better solution, it should put it forward. And Rees Mogg does have a solution of his own. Sort of.
“Why don’t we suggest to them that the Republic of Ireland comes out of the single market and customs union and accepts our regulations? It’s an equally logical suggestion”. Ri-i-i-ight. What exactly happened on the island of Ireland between the end of the Great War and 1922? Would Sir like to hazard a guess on that one?
Telling other countries what to jolly well do is not like admonishing a recalcitrant child, and nor is it going to work. Ireland has been an independent country for almost a Century; the country is an unswervingly pro-EU member state. It has adopted the Euro and the metric system, and would have joined the Schengen area, had it not been for British intransigence. The Dublin Government will not be taking orders from Westminster.
But good to know the mindset of those inhabiting the tail which is wagging the Prime Ministerial dog right now. No wonder the Tories are in such a mess.