Leading article

Theresa May's Brexit plans still lack credibility

The British prime minister who famously declared that `Brexit means Brexit' has now accepted that she is dealing with an infinitely more complicated set of circumstances but the implications of her strategy for Ireland remain as uncertain as ever.

While Theresa May can feel that she has given herself some breathing space, there is still a strong sense that Friday's gathering of ministers at her residence at Chequers in the south of England was an attempt to paper over the divisions within a Cabinet which is plainly and profoundly divided.

The crude and dismissive comments made by foreign secretary Boris Johnson about her proposals illustrated why a stronger leader would have sacked him some time ago.

All the indications are that Mrs May has bowed to the inevitability that, whatever happens, Britain will have to effectively follow EU laws and the rulings of the European Court of Justice.

We still do not know what is going to happen next over the Customs Union and the Single Market, and the consequences for the people of Ireland, north and south, remain as vague and contradictory as ever.

The 2016 referendum failed to give any guidance over these issues, and is still tainted at many levels over blatantly false claims from the leave camp and allegations of financial impropriety which have been directly linked to the DUP.

With England and Wales narrowly endorsing Brexit but voters in Scotland and Northern Ireland decisively insisting that they wished to remain within the EU, the final break-up of the UK has moved closer than ever.

There is a strong case for Mrs May putting her plan, whenever it finally emerges, to the electorate through a second referendum, but the chances of her producing a blueprint which is credible in Irish terms looks remote.

Although Mrs May has insisted she is a unionist, she must be acutely aware that, after Brexit, the tide of history is pushing events in an entirely different direction.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe from just £1 for the first month to get full access