May muddles along as Brexit pressure mounts

British prime minister, Theresa May.

British Prime Minister Theresa May appeared to be at sixes and sevens as EU negotiators waited for her to decide the fate of leaving the common market through a hard or soft Brexit.

Principal EU decision maker Michael Barnier said it was up to the UK to finalise its position in relation to issues such as the border between the Republic of Ireland, an EU country, and British territory Northern Ireland.

Given the UK’s indecision about sustaining an open border or closing it, EU negotiators even offered an extension of next year’s March 29 deadline when Britain is set to officially leave the EU.

But May’s government has gone mum on the possibility of accepting a status quo situation until end-2121.

In the meantime EU hardliners have indicated that should the UK fail to conclude customs arrangements that in large part contributed to a cessation of hostilities in Northern Ireland, it may have no other alternative but to enforce a “backstop” area that will essentially leave the UK’s Irish territory in the EU.

May’s government, however, has variously stated that should a hard Brexit be enacted, no soft border with Ireland will be maintained.

With the prospect of a hard border possibly re-igniting violence in Northern Ireland, fears are that this time it could ripple all the way to London, potentially breaking up the UK.

In certain circles it’s even been said that it could pave the way for Scotland to further tear at its fractious union with England.

Evidently unsure of what to do, May finds herself in a compromised position, apparently incapable of guiding a government that lacks clarity over thorny issues directly related to its departure from the EU.

However, faced with balancing a difficult budget due in November, her unwillingness to make a move on Northern Ireland’s border proves that May is scared to say or do anything that might further impugn her image at home.

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