The London High Court decision, which ruled that Theresa May must hold a vote in parliament before trigging the start of Brexit negotiations, was unexpected yesterday – and none more so than for the occupants of 10 Downing St.
"That's a little bit of a spanner in the works, isn't it?” said independent MEP Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan.
But the decision coming as a bolt out of the blue for the Tories isn’t just a problem for Britain- it has major implications for Ireland, now caught in a wider mire of Brexit uncertainty.
“It's quite clear that the British haven't a clue what they're doing,” Fine Gael MEP Brian Hayes told The Business Post.
“I suppose the question at a kind of competence level is: if they got this so badly wrong, and they were so badly advised on this, what other aspect of the negotiation on the more substantive issues to be discussed are they equally going to be ill-advised on?
“They've fallen at the first flight of hurdles and I think it will shake their own confidence as they work through the process.”
Yesterday’s decision was as strongly worded as it was unanimous – something that’ll make Britain’s attempt to get it overturned at Supreme Court level all the more difficult.
This calls into question the timetable that May set out, which would’ve seen Britain triggering the departure process by March.
“She will have to work out some kind of joint resolution in the House of Commons,” Hayes said.
Delay or no delay, Hayes said, “all of the issues for Ireland still remain”.
As soon as the process is triggered, Ireland has certainty, he said.
“The problem for Ireland is that this is more uncertainty and it could stall the entire process that much longer. And we know when we look at tax figures at the moment, we know when we see any potential of the Irish economy slowing down – it is all as a consequence of the uncertainty from Brexit. So far as this decision has created uncertainty, it most certainly has. The longer the uncertainty exists, the more difficult it's going to be for Ireland.
They've fallen at the first flight of hurdles and I think it will shake their own confidence
“I think if you were another European Union country like Ireland getting ready to start negotiations and trying to assess your own wish list of what should be in those negotiations, yesterday’s decision wouldn't give you a huge amount of confidence in the timeline that May herself imposed.”
On whether Ireland is doing enough to prepare for the start of those negotiations, Hayes said that “much of the government's response will be predicated on the British negotiating position”.
“I think the Irish government has done a lot of work in the last number of months. But I think Dublin understands that the decisions won't be taken in London. They’ll be taken in Brussels.”
Flanagan called yesterday’s All-Island Civic Dialogue on Brexit, which saw leaders from both sides of the border participate in a discussion in Dublin, a “grandiose meeting about something we don’t yet know anything about”.
“In the very short term, looking at the way sterling is going, the High Court decision might help a few people along the border.”
But if, in the long term, Britain’s parliament decides to vote against Brexit, “then Enda will have to get back to his real job,” he said.
“He’ll have to deal with the fact that the guards and the teachers are going out on strike.”
Taoiseach Enda Kenny yesterday warned of a scenario where "Europe itself loses the plot" in Brexit negotiations by failing to take the long view and obsessing over little details.
“I think Europe is still in denial about Brexit,” Hayes said.
“It can't be business as usual. We have to now close out the deal and make sure that we can get the European and euro zone economies working again at a much higher rate than is the case in the UK.”
“You can only lose it once. I don't think it's possible to lose the plot when you've lost it already,” Flanagan said, noting the unrest about freedom of movement in Austria and former Eastern bloc EU countries.
Regardless of the sanity of the EU’s approach, Ireland needs the euro zone project to be completed, Hayes said.
“We need to close out those issues, resolve them, and get on with the task of a sustainable growth, and that's the only way to respond to this Brexit issue because otherwise we could be caught in a downward spiral and that will be a disaster for the country.”
For him, it was “inevitable that Brexit will happen”. “But no-one can predict how it will happen,” he said.
“We either go down the road of a protracted, bitter, vindictive negotiation, which is in no-one's interest, or we go down the path of some mutual agreement between the British and the other 27, which brings certainty.
“The road of recrimination and bitterness is a road to disaster.”