May’s Brexit plan has repeatedly lost the approval of the EU and the support of her party
Theresa May’s many proposed Brexit deals have been too soft on the EU and are threatening to effectively exchange UK decision making for a good trade relationship with Europe. May started off with a proposal that did not resolve many issues in the cutting of ties with the EU, but over time it has become clear that her plans have failed to offer a good enough solution to the question of the Northern Irish border. This particular issue has become increasingly urgent with a looming deadline and a recent car bombing in Derry, a city on the Northern Irish border. Considering UK sovereignty was a major reason for the Brexit vote this has left many in the UK very nervous about May’s plan, as it not only threatens to undermine one of the main reasons for leaving the EU, but now possibly threatens important peace deals such as the Good Friday agreement.
This misinterpretation of the vote coupled with major gaps in key issues has left little time to achieve a realistic deal that is agreed on by both sides. With the EU negotiators maintaining a non negotiable position on the EU Single Market, the EU rejected the UK’s proposals multiple times, and the EU and countries such as France continued to demand more concessions from May. However, even despite the EU's surprise turn around in agreeing to May's plan in November 2018, the unanswered question of the Northern Irish border makes the possibility of a ‘no deal’ Brexit increasingly likely as the deadline draws closer.
Worry over Brexit has taken the form of protest resignations from some of May’s Conservative party members, David Davis, Steve Baker, Boris Johnson and recently Dominic Raab all leaving to express this disapproval. The lack of faith in May’s plan has also resulted in a push to remove May as prime minister, with Jacob Rees-Mogg filing a letter to try and trigger a vote of no confidence in November 2018. Similar action was taken by Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn in January 2019 despite a narrow vote to keep May as Prime Minister.
However the issue of May’s plan for a Northern Irish ‘backstop’, that is the temporary solution to the issue of a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, as a peaceful solution until a better agreement is reached, is the real sticking point at this late stage of negotiations. In December 2017 the UK and EU agreed on the ‘backstop’ deal or backup plan concerning the Northern Irish border, with the EU favouring Northern Ireland staying in the EU customs union, the single market and maintaining EU VAT laws until a better deal is reached at some point in the future. But this plan would see Northern Ireland remaining closer to the EU than the UK with the maintaining of a soft border between Northern Ireland and the European Union.
However, there will therefore be a default hard border between NI and the rest of the UK, in effect distancing NI from the rest of the countries in the UK. People worry this puts the union in jeopardy, and risks the later reunification of Ireland which is exactly what has caused the recent resurgence of Irish republicanism.
May’s plan proposes the whole of the UK will temporarily align closely with the EU’s customs union, single market and VAT laws to prevent the distancing of Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK, effectively pushing the problem further down the line. The EU, Republic of Ireland and many Brexiteers are not fond of this as it is indefinite and doesn’t really solve the problem of the hard border between the EU and the UK, a hard boarder that is necessary if the UK is allowed to go their own way economically. The reason this is so unpopular then is that on one hand May’s plan doesn’t solve the border issue and on the other hand she is making a move that might damage UK sovereignty, while reigniting tensions, and this is not a compromise that suits either side of the original debate.