by Rab Bruce’s Spider

The Brexit shambles lurches on from one crisis to another. After months of warnings about the importance of the Irish border question, Westminster suddenly seemed to wake up to the issue and actually got down to some serious negotiating. The big flaw was that Theresa May was so strong and stable that she forgot to check with her bosses in the DUP as to whether what she was agreeing met with their demands. When she found out that it didn’t, the negotiations broke down once again.

That’s the story coming out of the media, at any rate, but it is being consistently reported by European and Irish sources, not just the UK propaganda outlets, so there’s a fair chance it is broadly accurate.

A couple of things emerge from yesterday’s chaotic negotiations. The first is quite obvious, that Theresa May is far more interested in keeping her own strife-riven Party in power than in obtaining a good deal for Northern Ireland. When the DUP barked, she jumped because to do otherwise would have brought down her Government. Perhaps you can’t blame her for that, but naked self-interest shouldn’t really be the way to govern any country, not even one as dysfunctional as the UK.

As for the DUP, few UK media outlets seem concerned by the fact that they do not represent the Northern Irish Assembly since there is no Government in Northern Ireland. In fact, the Province voted to remain in the EU, yet whatever Arlene Foster says appears to be the determining factor in the EU negotiations. So, when faced with a deal which would have maintained more or less the status quo in terms of cross-border trade, she instead opted for a hard border draped in Union flags. Quite frankly, the EU must be shaking their heads in disbelief at this sort of attitude.

the other big issue at question here is, of course, the status of the other UK nations. Naturally, the Scottish and Welsh Governments were quick to come out with statements when it looked as if Northern Ireland was going to get a special deal on the Customs Union and Single Market. You can’t blame them for this, but it highlights the absurdity of Brexit. What everyone, apart from the DUP, is bothered about is being on the wrong side of a hard border. The proposed deal would simply have moved that border from Ireland to the ports and airports of Great Britain. This would leave pro-EU regions like Scotland on the wrong side of the hard border, so naturally they began making a fuss. This was probably more to make a point than anything else, since Scotland’s suggestions on maintaining access to the Single Market were dismissed as impossible by Westminster yet miraculously resurrected to solve the Irish border problem. Quite understandably, the Scottish and Welsh Governments were asking why such special arrangements could not be extended to them. The answer is perfectly obvious; it is because they are Scottish and Welsh, so have no influence over the Tories and are considered as irrelevant. However much the Scottish and Welsh Governments jump up and down, they will be ignored. This is not because their demands are unreasonable, but because meeting them would simply move the hard border to the English frontiers, thus leading to further disintegration of the UK.

This entire farce has revealed the big problem for Theresa May. Her “Brexit means Brexit" rhetoric has been shown up for what it was; an empty slogan. When the realities of the situation eventually became apparent to even the most thick-headed Tory, they were prepared to cave in to the EU’s demands, then utterly caved in when the DUP issued contradictory demands.

Theresa May must know she cannot come out of this with anything like a satisfactory deal. A hard border in Ireland will create an economic catastrophe for the Province as well as hitting the Republic hard, yet giving in to the sensible approach will result in the withdrawal of DUP support for May’s tottering Government. And, whichever way she jumps on the Irish question, Scotland will be dissatisfied. Theresa May might stick to her “Now is not the time" mantra, and follow the Spanish route of refusing to recognise a second IndyRef, but all that will do is stoke further resentment and add weight to what one must hope will be a more powerful message from the SNP than they have delivered so far.

In summary, May is clinging desperately to power, lurching from one crisis to another, the UK is hell-bent on leaving the EU no matter what, and Scotland has access to a lifeboat to rescue its people from the inevitable shipwreck.

Deal or no deal? May loses either way.