Brexit Britain is risking its international reputation – Scotsman comment
International diplomacy will often see the deployment of skills normally used to win at cards. So whether a new UK Government Bill will “override” the Withdrawal Agreement with the EU, as sources had suggested, or just “remove ambiguity” with some “limited and reasonable steps”, as Downing Street insisted amid mounting concern in Europe about the reports, is hard to tell. Somebody is bluffing.
One thing, however, is fairly clear. When trying to negotiate a deal with a business partner, if you suddenly suggest you may go back on a previous deal, they might start to question whether you will stick to the proposed agreement being discussed.
‘Concern’ is probably a mild way of describing the reaction from some quarters to reports about the UK Internal Market Bill. Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said any backtracking on the Withdrawal Agreement would be a “treacherous betrayal which would inflict irreversible harm on the all-Ireland economy and the Good Friday Agreement”.
Ursula von der Leyen, European Commission President, was less inflammatory but the message was similar. She pointed out the Withdrawal Agreement was “an obligation under international law and prerequisite for any future partnership”, adding that the parts concerning Northern Ireland were essential to “protect peace” and also to the “integrity of the single market”.
Other countries, particularly those involved in trade negotiations with the UK, may be also interested to read the fine detail of the Bill, to be published tomorrow, to check whether the changes are just minor housekeeping or whether Brexit Britain really is beginning its new life by going back on its word and ruining its good name.
There is the possibility that the Bill is a rather dramatic card in the poker game with Brussels, one designed to somehow talk them into agreeing to a better deal than the UK might get otherwise. But others, including Nicola Sturgeon, suspected it would only make a no-deal Brexit more likely.
Indeed, it may be the UK is not playing a game designed to secure a deal at all, but rather one in which victory is defined as successfully shifting the blame onto the EU for the catastrophic economic damage a no-deal would cause.
If so, it is a game they cannot win. If the worst happens, the public will know who is truly to blame.
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