The Irish government has done us all a service by highlighting a fatal flaw at the heart of Theresa May’s exit strategy
A scathing critique of the British government’s conduct of the stalemated Brexit negotiations, compiled from reports by Irish diplomats in EU countries, slipped into the public domain last week. The timing of the leak was not coincidental. It precedes a critical heads-of-government summit in Brussels next month, when Theresa May is gambling the negotiating impasse will finally be broken. This summit is shaping up to be a watershed moment for Britain’s misconceived and ill-managed bid for a deal with the EU before the door slams shut a short 16 months from now.
The impact of the Irish leak was twofold. The contempt privately expressed by some EU government officials for the flailing efforts of David Davis, the Brexit secretary, and Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, provided further evidence that they are making an epic mess of things. That’s important in terms of the shifting mood in Britain, where public awareness of the unaffordable economic and social cost of Brexit, especially a hard Brexit, is growing by the day. The leak also helped remind Westminster of Dublin’s acute worries about the likely negative consequences for Ireland, whose economy is uniquely dependent on exports to Britain and British transit routes.