The other option makes UK beholden to the EU for permission to leave the customs union some choice and not really a Brexit.
The question is, has Brussels checkmated Theresa May? The Irish border imbroglio has pushed the UK Prime Minister into a corner. No one in the UK will accept what Brussels is proposing, while Brussels has rejected UK’s proposals. Some folks are wondering if this is just a cunning ruse to achieve a second referendum, as it appears there is nothing left to negotiate, except saving the face of the EU. Unity in the EU is fragile: Italy’s populist government resent having to send their 2019 Budget for approval to the European Commission, who reportedly have considered rejecting it; the election results in Germany’s Bavaria, which enjoys a stable economy and low unemployment, saw the AfD (Alternative for Germany) party surge ahead on their policies for stricter migration; Poland has already annoyed the EU by reforming its judicial system in the Supreme Court; Hungary is facing disciplinary action from European Parliament over “breaches of core values”; Estonia’s Eurosceptic EKRE party (Conservative People’s Party of Estonia) is gaining ground in advance of the March 2019 election; Greece cannot Grexit while it is still under financial surveillance from the Eurozone, following the end of austerity. All this demonstrates why Brussels has to make an example of the UK—to stop other member states from getting the same idea, Brussels has to make Brexit a bad deal. The EU appears to be stalling and evading all UK proposals, eventually to slap a bad deal at the Prime Minister at the last minute when her back is truly against the wall and she is desperate for some sort of a deal.
It is inconceivable that May would abandon Northern Ireland’s open border, but one of the “Backstops” suggests this. However, May’s slim majority needs the support of the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party, Northern Ireland), who would find this absolutely unacceptable; but just in case, Tory Whips have been noticed courting Labour MPs’ support for the Withdrawal Bill whenever it hits the House of Commons. The other “Backstop” option makes the UK permanently beholden to the EU for permission to leave the customs union some choice and not really a Brexit. Following the failed EU Summit this week, May announced the possibility of lengthening the so-called transition/implementation period and this suggestion has really irritated Brexiteers.
MPs Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Priti Patel, Ian Duncan-Smith and Owen Paterson combined to write to the Prime Minister, urging her to stop seeing Brexit as a “damage limitation exercise…not to engage in a show of resistance and choreographed argument followed by surrender and collapse into some version of the backstop and Chequers”.
It is clear Boris Johnson is still a leader in waiting and there are various flashpoints that could bring him out to challenge the leadership: lack of DUP support, lack of Ministerial support for the PM, antipathy for the Budget later this month, and the eventual content of the Withdrawal Bill. Johnson has got the issues in the UK in perspective—immigration, radical Islam and immigration. These are the issues at stake outside the London bubble and in Europe.