17.4million people backed Brexit, but only two – at least one of whom campaigned for ‘Remain’ – decided that leaving the EU should also mean a departure from the single market, the customs union and the European court of justice, says the Guardian. The pair were, of course, Theresa May and her former aide Nick Timothy, who made what the paper describes as ‘fateful national decisions’ based on ‘personal interpretations of the vote’. This was a ‘reckless’ and ‘foolish’ act, says the Guardian, and nowhere is this seen more obviously in the Irish border row which has been spilling out this week. Here, the decision to leave the customs union collides ‘with the reality that to do so will inflict a hard border inside Ireland or create a new border in the Irish Sea between Ireland and Britain’. To solve this problem in the short term, it seems likely that Britain and the EU will opt for a fudge, which ‘may get Mrs May over the immediate negotiating hurdle in Brussels next week. But in the long term, even if Brexit goes ahead, (this) is not sufficient. The policy itself needs to change’. Instead of opting for a quick fix, the government should change tack and ditch its plan to leave the single market, concludes the Guardian: this remains the ‘best way of protecting the UK economy and avoiding a hard border in Ireland’.
Whatever brand of Brexit Theresa May does want to pursue, we need more clarity from the Prime Minister, argues the Daily Telegraph in its editorial. Throughout the whole process so far, the Cabinet has had precious little say. ‘For a Prime Minister who promised a return of Cabinet government this is an odd approach’, says the Telegraph, which calls on the PM to listen to her Cabinet colleagues rather than rely on ‘a small cadre of ministers and No 10 officials’. ‘Mrs May’s political difficulties are obvious’, says the paper. But these ‘problems stem from the fact that it is no longer apparent what it is the Prime Minister is trying to achieve’. ‘She urgently needs to clarify her approach and work with those who can deliver it. If that means a breach with Tory Brexiteers, at least they will know where they stand,’ concludes the Telegraph.
‘Both sides are playing for high stakes’ in the question over the Irish border after Brexit, says the Financial Times. A failure to move on to trade talks with the EU could bring down the government, which would simultaneously mean the DUP lose the considerable sway they currently hold at Westminster. In the event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit, Ireland should also remember that it ’stands to lose more than any other EU member state’, says the FT. So it is ‘in everyone’s interests’ to ‘find a solution’. Only then can the Prime Minister get on with a more urgent and important task and move on to a more crucial question: ‘what the “end state” of Britain’s relations with the EU should be’.
The Irish PM Leo Varadkar ‘seems to relish launching insults in Theresa May’s direction’, says the Sun. At worst, this approach ’amounts to sabotage-by-soundbite’ argues the paper. But Varadkar is not the only one to blame for the breakdown in an expected agreement on the first stage of Brexit talks this week. The DUP ‘can be accused of over-playing their hand’, says the Sun, but all sides would do well to remember that the last thing any one wants is a ‘return to megaphone diplomacy between Dublin, Belfast and London’. Despite the tumultuous events of this week though, the Sun says it remains hopeful of a successful outcome for talks aimed at avoiding a hard border. If that does happen, Varadkar must ‘get behind a trade agreement that works for both Ireland and its biggest trading partner and nearest neighbour, the UK’. If he doesn’t, he will bear a big share of the ‘blame’ if things go wrong, the Sun concludes.