Getting the proposal through the Commons will require 325 votes. Before this crisis the government had, together with its confidence and supply purchase, a majority of one – with 326 seats. It no longer has this. With a conservative estimate of losses, the government’s vote is reduced to about 276; that’s 50 votes shy of the majority it needs. So, can this vote be passed? Of course, but nothing is guaranteed. We can exclude from the equation Sinn Féin’s 7 seats. The Irish republicans refuse to take their seats in the British parliament. This brings May’s shortfall to somewhere closer to 40-45 votes.
Special status for Northern Ireland, which rejected Brexit, will be a slap in the face for Scotland – which also rejected Brexit. As the six counties do not have significant oil and gas resources and Scotland does, no such arrangement will be considered for the Scots. This cannot play out well for British unity. The majority of Scotland – including its unionist base – rejected Brexit, Holyrood has refused legislative consent to any deal that does not consider the interests of the Scottish voters, and those voters themselves know what’s best for them.
How does a community function when it is ghettoised and bricked off? It doesn’t. The limited supply of essentials means that prices will rise, black markets will sprout out of the woodwork, and the normal operation of society rapidly deteriorates. The British government has already drawn up plans for emergency policing and the use of the armed forces to distribute food. The army doesn’t come on to the street to manage soup kitchens and hand out tins of Spam. The army hits the street to maintain or re-establish order, and this is exactly why the army will be manning the breadlines.
An impending checkmate has brought May to her senses, but in doing so she has had to erase all her lines in the sand – up to and including her position on the free movement of people. As the negotiations are ongoing, when May takes this compromise to Europe it is likely Barnier will up the ante by demanding this third pillar – effectively compelling the British to take the only remaining offer on the table; a Brexit that doesn’t mean Brexit, and that would be the end game for her.
London has every reason to deny it is currently considering the idea. May’s government depends on the support of the DUP, the political representatives of Ulster Loyalists – a community in the province that wants to see no difference between its “country” and the rest of the UK. But the British government has a nasty habit of denying its plans around Brexit. It denied a power grab in Scotland, and we all know what happened then. Denial is a British tactic designed to limit resistance to its plans until they are ready to be rolled out.
EU negotiators are now more convinced than ever that the talks will break down, resulting in no closing deal being made between the UK and Europe- and this is no laughing matter.
On the surface, whilst lacking entirely of grace, it is a cordial and diplomatic statement of intent, but it is impossible for the reader to fail to notice the subtle belligerence of its tone and the fact that it is quite a petulant attempt at blackmail.
Theresa May and her neo-imperialist band of Conservative Brexiteers seem hell bent on going through with this no matter the cost, and this is the root of all the uncertainty. They are capable of anything – and this is frightening.