Who would want to be in Theresa May’s shoes right now? She is caught between the hard rock of the Brexiteers and the harder rock of her Unionist allies the DUP. There she was, about to announce that the whole Brexit thingy was going swimmingly after agreeing to a form of words with the Irish Taoiseach, and even lining up a press conference to have a very public gloat about it, when up pops the prop. That’s Arlene Foster to you and I.
Arlene said that she would never, never, never agree to a soft Brexit on the island of Ireland while the rest of the UK gets a good stiff Brexiting. There’s no way that the hardline Unionists want to miss out on all that fun. So Theresa phones her up and she is told that if she doesn’t change her mind then the whole cash for support deal is as dead Kezia’s TV career (and that’s very dead). Rumour has it that Theresa turned paler than a disabled veteran waiting for their Universal Credit payment.
What’s a failed PM to do? Well she could call the DUP’s bluff and say, “I couldn’t give a XXXX about you Foster, or your bigoted wee party or your 10 votes that keep me and my knife wielding chums in the manner to which we’ve become accustomed,” and cut the deal anyway. This would give the DUP what they want on the frictionless border between the north and the south but also give the DUP what they don’t want in a border in the Irish Sea between the island of Ireland and the remaining islands of the United Kingdom. The DUP could call May’s bluff and withdraw support for the Tories in Westminster and kiss goodbye to their £1bn bung (as if they would ever see it, it’s Tories they’re dealing with after all). This would result in the collapse of the Tories and another general election, which Labour would probably win, and a friend of Sinn Fein as Prime Minister. Never, etc. They would also lose their influence over the Brexit debacle and we know that they don’t want to miss out on any of that self flagellation. But we know that Tories love power, so there’s absolutely no way that the PM would risk the bluff in the first place.
So May could say, “Look EU, there’s no way that we’re going to put up any borders in my precious Britain. So you can stick your poxy trade deal and we’ll go for full Brexitisation.” This would result in a hard border between north and south Ireland, which is what the DUP don’t want, and no border in the Irish Sea which the DUP do want. At least this way the co-religionists would be able to self flagellate with the thorniest of Brexits when the EU call No Deal. Unfortunately for Arlene and the DUP, that’s not what the people of Northern Ireland want; they want to remain in the EU and have no border between north and south. But Arlene doesn’t care because there is currently no Northern Ireland Assembly and Northern Ireland is under direct rule from London (largely due to her own involvement in the Cash for Ash scandal).
Other people may care though, like the businesses who would be unable to have frictionless trade with the Republic of Ireland, or the terrorists who stopped bombing and killing because there was no border, or the majority of people in Northern Ireland who voted to Remain within the EU. They would be up in arms (quite literally for some of them.) They would demand a vote on the re-unification of Ireland which they would probably win. That would mean the end of the UK as we know it. At least it would be long after May is ousted from office so she wouldn’t have to carry the can for it.
The PM could realise the impossibility of Brexit and call the whole thing off, which would probably result in her saying, “Et tu Boris, et tu Gove, et tu Jacob, etc.” as she is repeatedly stabbed by her own party. Again, we know that Tories love power so there’s no way she’s going to take the knifing for the good of the country or even resign and let some other mug carry the can (that’s her job after all, followed by a retirement gracing the red leather of the House of Lords no doubt.)
The only logical solution is for the UK to remain within the Customs Union and probably the Single Market. This would mean no border between the north and south of Ireland and no sea border between the islands of Ireland and the rest of the islands of the UK. This would be acceptable to the DUP but they also want that hard, thorny Brexit to bash themselves about with, so they won’t be going for this option either. Cue the fall of the Tory government.
My feeling is that the PM will say, “You EU types are being jolly difficult so we don’t want to have a deal with you.” The DUP will be delighted that they got their Brexit whip, but dismayed that they will have a southern (and western) border. May will be knifed by her own party and there will be another general election, which Labour will probably win. The DUP won’t get their bung after all and they will lose all their influence in Westminster. Meanwhile Corbyn will start negotiating with the EU but it will be too late and the UK will crash out of the EU with no deal. Cue the break up of the UK, at least it will be Labour’s fault.