by John Ward
Having forcefully observed three years ago that Boris Johnson ran up the gangplank to board HMS Brexit just as it was upping anchor, I have been praying of late that the last three years had, if nothing else, made him a confirmed Leaver. But Boris the Spider is the same as ever. After the vacuity of the letter to Tusk, the Prime Minister responded warmly to Angela Merkel’s offer of a “deal” in Berlin yesterday….a “deal” in which the Withdrawal Agreement would remain unopened. We are lumbering around a familar circle here.
Oh dear. Following Tuesday’s Slogpost, yesterday’s BoJo visit to Berlin has not so much confirmed my worst fears as brought into sharp focus what the Prime Minister’s tactics are.
That is, to let an 0ctober 31st ‘leaving’ date and the Irish backstop cloud the real issue here: the Withdrawal Agreement is dead, and non-acceptance of that reality simply isn’t on.
As if she might have been briefed to say it, Angela Merkel this afternoon challenged Boris Johnson to come up with an alternative to the Irish backstop within 30 days….in the same breath as suggesting that such would make a Brexit deal possible.
This is classic EU stuff: a problem largely introduced by them now becomes homework for us. Why? We have said clearly that the backstop must go. That’s it. Merkel drivels on about it being “time for the UK to put its proposals on the table”, but our firm position is clear: No Backstop. What else does she want on the table – our annexation of Aquitaine?
Johnson’s response to this challenge struck me as abolutely incredible, and complete tosh. “We in the UK want a deal, we seek a deal. And I believe that we can get one. We can do it: ‘wir schaffen das’, I think, is the phrase.”
He is already in reverse from the opening position that got him elected Tory leader: THE BACKSTOP MUST GO. Worse still, he is de facto accepting that the existing Withdrawal Agreement is still a viable document. It is not, and it cannot be long before before Tory MP Steve Baker comes forward on social media to spell that out.
Meanwhile, the Irish contingent’s double standards beggar belief. Earlier today, Phil Hogan, the agriculture commissioner from Ireland, warned that a no-deal Brexit would create a “foul atmosphere” with “serious consequences” for the UK’s ability to return to Brussels and negotiate a free trade agreement, describing Mr Johnson an an “unelected” prime minister who was gambling with the peace process.
Hogan is himself unelected, while Leo Varadkar, the Irish prime minister and leader of Mr Hogan’s Fine Gael party, was selected by an internal party election and has not faced a general election since taking office in 2017. But that hypocrisy was compounded by his accusation about “gambling with the peace process” – disgraceful nonsense from a man who is thinking entirely of Irish farmers, not Peace in the North.
Further South in this European political cesspit, we see the banking envoy Macron putting out releases undermining even this globalist neoliberal attempt to pretend that a hawser tying Britain to the Titanic is in fact a duplicitous escape confirming the French view about the mythical perfide Albion.
The stated Elysée view is that No Deal on October 31 is now the likeliest outcome of any remaining negotiations. An official in Macron’s office said this afternoon, “If the United Kingdom considers that having a backstop is absolutely excluded, that is its right, but in that case it limits the possibility of reaching an agreement….be in no doubt that the French and German positions — and elsewhere — are the same. There’s not the thickness of a cigarette paper between us”.
A mountain of evidence suggests that such posturing is complete bollocks. But such an observation – while empirically accurate – will be rendered irrelevant if Boris Johnson forgets the reason why he enjoys such popularity as he does.
One never expects principles to come to the surface with BoJo. It is now obvious that he is putting Party unity before country. Somebody – some group, some research study or whatever – needs to make it brutally clear to both him and his partner that this won’t wash.
He is in severe danger of either handing the future to a loose cannon in the shape of Nigel Farage, or to the false witness represented by Corbyn Labour. Meanwhile, some of us here at Slogger’s Roost will be watching the Macron meeting, the Trump session, and the G7 Summit with a jaundiced eye. Nine months ago, Boris Johnson called the WA “a turd”. The impression one gets is that he is now trying to polish it. It won’t wash, let alone polish.