Editorial Comment from today’s Irish Independent (5th. September)

IF BREXIT was conceived – as it sometimes seems – purely as an experiment by a cabal of ill-advised politicians to outsmart reality, they have come undone for now. Their zeal for their project took them a long way, but their progress was halted on encountering an equal and opposite force – otherwise known as democracy.

Many of its dramatis personae appeared more than a little stunned this week as they emerged from the wreckage of their pipe dream to discover that one tinkers with the levers of power at one’s peril.

A combined opposition and 21 rebel Conservatives took the not inconsiderable wind from Boris Johnson’s sails.

The circumstances of Parliament taking back control were suitably shambolic as befits everything associated with Brexit.

If the cliff edge has been avoided for now, there are still too many grave outstanding questions for anyone to believe danger has been averted.

As Tánaiste Simon Coveney acknowledged, we still do not have a credible legally sound alternative to the backstop.

In fact, the EU is still bereft of any proposal at all, according to Mr Coveney.

Not only is nothing on the table, no serious negotiations are even taking place.

And Mr Coveney also confirmed there has been a significant undermining of trust between Brussels and the UK of late, as the UK has rowed back on previous substantial commitments to regulatory alignment. So for Mr Johnson to insist progress is being made is disingenuous.

Nonetheless, Mr Coveney indicated Ireland would still support an extension to Article 50 “if it makes sense”. In other words, if there was evidence that an acceptable deal could be agreed on, approved and delivered, none of which is apparent at the moment.

Compelling as events in Westminster have been, the UK could still crash out of the EU.

Triggering an election or applying a legal brake to frustrate a no deal are in play, but a meeting of minds is not.

Mr Johnson challenged Jeremy Corbyn to put his policy of “dither and delay” to the British people.

But Labour says it won’t back a poll until a delay to the October 31 Brexit deadline is set.

This would at least reduce the prospects of a disorderly exit. So often we see how people make their decisions based on what the facts mean to them, not on the facts themselves.

But the facts of Brexit have been distorted to such a degree that it is small wonder so many are in two minds.

We are moving into the realm of the last chance. Yesterday, Mr Coveney stressed very difficult choices confront us.

But in Westminster Mr Johnson was referring to Mr Corbyn as both “a chlorinated chicken” and “a big girl’s blouse”.

With the most consequential decision the Commons has taken in half a century on the floor in the Mother of all Parliaments, one might hope for better, or perhaps prepare for the worst.