Scuppered EU talks adds new risk

When the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) scuppered Prime Minister Theresa May’s talks with the EU they not only added to the risk of the talks failing, they also added a new risk – The ousting of Theresa May or even the fall of the government itself.

Lack of strategic understanding

However, attempts by the UK government to move onto trade talks appear to underline a certain lack of strategic understanding.

The Commission’s Chief Negotiator, Michel Barnier, was clear on the EU’s objectives in a press briefing in December last year:

“…Unity is the strength of the European Union and President Juncker and I are determined to preserve the unity and the interest of the EU27 in the Brexit negotiations. This determination is shared by all governments.”

In this respect the interests of trade is subservient to, and flows from the strategic imperative to preserve the cohesiveness of the EU.

On the border issue the DUP’s leader Arlene Foster stated:

“We will not accept any form of regulatory divergence which separates Northern Ireland economically or politically from the rest of the United Kingdom.”

With the Unionists suspicious of any moves they see as making a United Ireland more likely, Theresa May appears to have misread the border issue as technical one rather than strategic.

Powerful pressures

There are powerful pressures exerting themselves on the UK government which contributes to the surprise twists and turns we’ve witnessed in the negotiations.

There is the complex internal political situation – The rift with the DUP who the Conservatives rely on to maintain a parliamentary majority; cabinet disagreements; and opposition from some Conservative MPs to a deal involving a customs union, single market or the European Court of Justice.

On the other hand is the importance for the government to avoid an economically, and politically, damaging ‘no deal’.

Theresa May, is on the horns of a dilemma – She badly to needs to move onto trade talks but conceding too much ground risks her fall or that of her government.

Surviving to 2019

The Conservative government seems to be working to a timetable of surviving through to 2019 when a deal would be scheduled to be concluded.

While some sort of accommodation may emerge in the short term on the border issue, there is now the added risk that the Conservative government may not make it to their 2019 target…

 

Gary Hollands

 

Geopolitical analyst Tyga FX