Sinn Féin in the firing line as Brexit blame game gains pace

Outside looking in...Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald in the shadow of Westminster.
Outside looking in...Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald in the shadow of Westminster.

World of Politics with Harry McGee – harrymcgee@gmail.com

The Brexit clock is only minutes before midnight and tempers are fraying, with no solutions on the horizon and everyone preoccupied with the blame game. Even Sinn Féin – in absentia – found itself in the firing line when rivals pointed out that the party’s six votes would have at least seen one positive suggestion passing through the House of Commons on its second night of indicative votes last Monday.

This was where MPs from all parties were allowed to table alternative motions to the Government’s withdrawal proposals.

None of them were compulsory – in other words, if any succeeded, the Government would not be compelled to follow them.

Still, a parliamentary majority for any one alternative would have massive powers of persuasion.

The motions that were voted on included a revocation of Article 50 (in other words, stop the Brexit process); a commitment to remain in the Customs Union; and a so-called ‘Common Market 2.0’ which would mean the UK would have the same relationship with the EU as Norway does, with access to the single market.

In the event, none of them were successful, even though one came very close.

But there is no doubt that the Brexit process has now reached a sorry pass.

This week is the first time that I have sense real panic in the air, in the UK, here in Ireland and also in Europe.

There is still a chance that Theresa May’s high-stakes long game of spooking MPs to back her deal for fear of the nightmarish alternative might succeed.

If she does that, it will be a triumph but one achieved at the price of chaos and division and uncertainty. She will also need to fall on her sword to achieve it.

At it stands, there are only three possible scenarios. The first is May forcing through her withdrawal deal on the fourth time of asking. The second is a crash-out and no deal Brexit which will be disastrous.

And the third is a really long delay that will certainly involve a new general election in Britain, the prospect of a second referendum and the British having to grasp the undesired reality of having to hold elections for a European parliament to which they no longer want to belong.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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