Any Johnson deal would be terrible; it must be put to people

by Hugo Dixon | 11.10.2019

Even if the Prime Minister can square the Irish situation, what he is proposing for Great Britain is ghastly.

We don’t know what Boris Johnson proposed to Leo Varadkar yesterday – or whether he will be able to do a deal. However, it looks like he may have made considerable concessions to the Irish Prime Minister over Northern Ireland.

In particular, Johnson may have abandoned his insistence on customs checks between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, as well as his requirement that his DUP allies should have a veto on what happens in Northern Ireland despite the fact that they only represent a minority of the population.

But whatever may or may not be agreed on Northern Ireland, our Prime Minister‘s proposals would be terrible for Great Britain. I set out the concerns when they were published last week. Here is a recap of the four main problems.

Cliff edge end 2020

Johnson wants Great Britain to quit the EU’s single market and customs union at the end of next year. He hopes that a new free-trade agreement (FTA) with the EU will kick in immediately after that. But that’s hopelessly optimistic. Ambitious FTAs typically take over five years to agree. So we’ll have to trade with the EU under World Trade Organisation instead.

That means tariffs on exports to the EU, customs controls gumming up our manufacturers’ supply chains and our industries losing their rights to operate in the EU. Our economy would fall off a cliff because the EU accounts for roughly half our entire trade.

Not even Canada

Johnson eventually hopes to negotiate an FTA with the EU like the one Canada has. But there’s no way the EU will agree to such a deal with the UK given that he wants to abandon the “level playing” provisions Theresa May negotiated. The UK is just too big a market and too close geographically for it to take the risk. The best we could hope for – even after five or more years of negotiation – is a bare-bones FTA. That would be permanently bad for the economy.

Back-door access to GB market via Ireland

Johnson was already proposing that Northern Ireland manufacturers have unfettered access to Great Britain. If he now agrees that there will be no checks at all on the Irish border, there will be little to stop goods coming from the EU into Northern Ireland and then crossing the Irish Sea into Great Britain.

Given that EU producers will have backdoor access into the UK, the bloc will have less incentive to do a FTA with us that opens up their market to us. The same goes for other countries which have deals with the EU. All that talk about global Britain doing buccaneering deals around the world will come to little.


The Prime Minister says we should “get Brexit done“. But his plans mean that the agony will go on and on. The only way to put this bawling baby to bed is to stop Brexit.

Like May, Johnson started off with the idea that no deal is better than a bad deal. Like her, he may now be shifting to the view that any deal is better than no deal. But by far the best outcome is no Brexit at all. That’s why MPs must insist that any deal must go back to the people in a referendum.

Demand a vote on the Brexit deal

Click here to find out more

Edited by James Earley

Categories: Sovereignty, UK Politics

6 Responses to “Any Johnson deal would be terrible; it must be put to people”

  • Do I remember rightly that Johnson has been overheard saying something like “fuck the industry”? At least he said something he actually intended to do!

  • Unless it is totally insane, any modified deal which may be passed by the EU is likely to pass the Commons simply because everyone is sick to death of Brexit. I would love to think that the UK will remain in the EU but that is highly unlikely unless there is a GE and the LibDems get in with a majority. Again, highly unlikely, although I, in common with many former Labour supporters, will vote for them because they seem to have the most well-balanced policies and have very few, if any, wild-eyed fanatics. And Jo is a sight easier on the eye than either JC or bojo 🙂

    Presumably all will be revealed on the 19th.

  • I wonder if this is just another example of how Johnson likes to string everyone along. First a No deal was a one in million chance of happening, next he didn’t like prorogation, and there would be plenty of time to debate Brexit after Parliament re-opened. Now, I can see a situation where he lets on he’s making progress with Varadkar, only to find an obstacle at the last minute, when its too late to reverse out of a No Deal Brexit. Whilst he is surrounded by Cummings and doctrinaire Brexiteers, you can quite see that happening.

  • Why on earth is simply revoking A50 such a poison chalice? We would be able to decide to exit at a later date, once we have all our duck lined up in a row. Not now, with the only options are bad or very bad.

    Could it be that the money behind brexit knows fully well that they fooled us once and now want to fool us twice and know that if A50 was withdrawn we would not be fooled a third time. The brexit folk are like a long distance runner, dead on their feet, knowing if they can just make it that last few yards they will be past the finish line and recharged. They will be powerful once again and sweep aside their opponents like dust off a table top.

    Withdraw A50. Save our country and save us too.

  • > Could it be that the money behind brexit knows fully well that they fooled
    > us once and now want to fool us twice and know that if A50 was withdrawn
    > we would not be fooled a third time.

    It’s much simpler than that. If we’re not out by the end of the year the new EU Tax Avoidance rules will come into effect.