I’ve often written about #Brexit and hoped at some stage we could have a normal conversation about its impact and what can be done to end the misery it has caused. Until this last week I didn’t think that would be possible before the next election. But perhaps the ‘Windsor Agreement’ has changed quite a bit in British politics and our relationship with Europe.
Here are a few quick things I have noticed and worth pondering over the coming months ahead of the General Election. These are in no particular order of importance!
- When a country engages in a mature way with the European Union it is possible to get a sensible deal. Who knew! The ERG and Tory Brexit headbangers have caused untold damage to our international diplomatic standing in recent years. Boring steady and technocratic Sunak has proved what we all knew. Diplomacy is hard work and requires give and take and trust. Johnson threw decades of diplomacy out the window in his brief tenure in office. That damage is being undone slowly.
2. Sunak has without irony made the case for the EU and Single Market. In his speeches in NI he has told business leaders what a great deal it has been to get access to the SM. If only he would extend this benefit to the rest of the UK. I can see Scotland (who also voted overwhelmingly to Remain in 2016) are making this case today.
He said his post-Brexit agreement meant Northern Ireland was the world’s “most exciting economic zone” with access to both EU and UK markets.
Critics quickly pointed out that the entire UK had full access to the EU’s single market until the UK’s withdrawal, with some saying his comments showed how he does not really believe in Brexit.
Anti-Brexit campaigner Femi Oluwole tweeted: “Rishi Sunak just spent two minutes boasting about how Northern Ireland is the “most exciting investment zone on the planet” because it has full access to the UK and EU market. You know… like we did before Brexit!”
3. Johnson is finished (for the foreseeable future.) As late as last week Johnson was eyeing up the opportunity to cause trouble for Sunak over the NI Protocol. As I said last week Johnson has never cared about NI or the DUP but has seen an opportunity to use them and the border issues for his own gain. It looked like he had spooked the talks with his threat of an intervention and encouraging the ERG to stir up trouble and force Sunak to climb down. Whilst we are still not 100% sure that the DUP will come good, the Johnson threat has disappeared in this mini diplomatic triumph for Sunak. Only the hardest Brexit outriders are trying to sound defiant. Many others have realised the game is up and have reluctantly decided to back the deal. I really hope we have turned a little bit of a corner and normal politics can resume, with the ERG put back in their box.
4. The sensible approach over NI and the balance of discussion over further areas like Horizon Programme and Electric cars entering the SM all give the impression that ‘making Brexit work’ is not all about shouting at Brussel’s. This opens up room for Starmer to claim that we can approach Europe with a constructive approach and get good deals without undermining those who voted to Leave in 2016. The mood has been changing recently anyway as more polls show the public disillusionment with Brexit. The Tories have demonstrated that being pro Brexit isn’t all about seeing the relationship as us v an enemy. Don’t get me wrong there are still some dangers for Labour as the Torie are demonstrating a reasonableness we haven’t seen, and this may attract voters to this style of sensible Brexit negotiation. We will have to watch carefully if the EU makes a habit of making sensible deals over the next 18 months. It doesn’t make the damage caused by Brexit much better, but it will certainly stave off even worse consequences that were heading our way.
Finally, people may get used to boring government again? Sunak has generated a bit of respect from unexpected quarters for his technocratic approach to issues like the NI Protocol. Unlike his predecessor he does at least seem to read the detail and act accordingly. He made more than a subtle hint at his own despair with Johnson when he agreed with Starmer over Johnson in the Commons this week.
This issue is not going to decide the next general election, but it could be a small turning point for the Tories who hope they could avert wipe out in 2024.
I was going to spend this week analysing the Speech by Starmer and his 5 Missions. But that might have to wait until we have more details and the sort of speech which cuts through to the public, not just the business leaders and commentariat.
One Reply to “NI Protocol Deal Changes Politics for Good.”
Yes, that is a Big achievement, and reluctant as I am to say it, credit where it’s due.
Sunak will still not be proven roadworthy until he harnesses the electricity companies. No sign as yet.