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Is Johnson taking mickey with flimsy “commitments” to peace?

by Hugo Dixon | 20.08.2019

The prime minister hopes the EU will scrap the “backstop” in return for unspecified commitments to keep the Irish border open. If the issue wasn’t so serious, one would think this was one of Boris Johnson’s jokes.

His letter to Donald Tusk pretends to be the opening gambit in a negotiation to replace the backstop Theresa May negotiated to ensure the Irish border stays open in all circumstances. But Johnson has nothing concrete to offer in its place. All he has are two flimsy proposals.

The first is to put in place alternative “arrangements as far as possible”. But that’s all there is. Not even an attempt to spell out what these alternative arrangements might be. 

Johnson recognises this won’t reassure the EU. So his second proposal is that, if the alternative arrangements aren’t ready by the end of next year, he will “look constructively and flexibly at what commitments might help”. And that’s it. Not even a hint at what commitments he’s prepared to make.

Remember that much blood has been spilled in Northern Ireland – and that the UK has a historic duty to do whatever it can to uphold peace there. Remember, too, that we signed the Good Friday agreement to ensure exactly that, so we have a legal duty too. 

As if that’s not enough, we have a strong interest in maintaining the peace. Democrats in both Houses of Congress have made clear they will block any trade deal between America and the UK if we undermine the peace process. So no amount of sucking up to Donald Trump will give us the dubious benefits of eating chlorine-washed chicken.

Johnson says the backstop is undemocratic. But he totally ignores that Northern Ireland voted to stay in the EU in the referendum – and that he himself voted for the core principle behind the backstop in December 2017 when he was foreign secretary. Now he is telling the EU that he wishes to rip up paragraph 49 of the “Joint Report” containing that commitment. What hypocrisy.

The prime minister is right about one thing. The backstop is bad. It requires the whole UK to stay in a bare-bones customs union with the EU without a vote on its rules – and it requires Northern Ireland to stay in large chunks of the EU’s single market, again without a say on the rules. That’s losing control, not taking it back.

Johnson should have thought about all this when he backed Brexit in the referendum rather than blithely dismissing concerns. The only good way out of this mess is to cancel Brexit. That way, we won’t need border controls either in Ireland or between Britain and the rest of the EU. 

We have to fight this madness.

13 Responses to “Is Johnson taking mickey with flimsy “commitments” to peace?”

  • Yes and we should also point out the hypocrisy of saying the backstop is undemocratic while saying he will ignore the views of Parliament concerning ‘No deal’

  • You would think that a Prime Minister “elected” by 0.25% of the electorate would know what “undemocratic” means.

    It seems that he is of the school that says “Don’t confuse me with the facts”.

  • The backstop is an agreement (more a treaty) between ourselves and the EU that we cannot leave unless the other side allow us – now that is undemocratic!

  • Absolutely right, the comments made above. The extraordinary thing is that Johnson and those who support him, still seem to preserve some credibility with the wider general public. Brexit seems to have transformed the UK political scene in the same way that Trump’s presidency has impacted the United States. Statements can be made without any supporting factual evidence and are taken at their ” face ” value while in fact they bear no relation to reality.

    One can only hope that Trump and Brexit are temporary phenomenon .

  • Has this man no shame at all? Does he have any knowledge of Irish history at all ? Britain has been involved in a number of partitions in the aftermath of the ‘Empire’ including Ireland, Palestine and India. All have left long term problems including those in the six counties of the north of Ireland. The Good Friday Agreement was nothing short of a miracle in bringing all sides to a compromise and a state of peace. An open border between north and south was intrinsic to this process. Johnson is being reckless and irresponsible in threatening this hard win peace. We have already seen signs of what might happen again in the past 24 hours or so. Johnson needs to pull his neck in and stop the posturing.

  • Just been watching German TV news, and after concluding that Johnson had brought nothing new to the table on the NI border, the correspondent thought the mood in Brussels was that Theresa May would have stood a better chance of re-opening the negotiations! I don’t think Johnson has got much going for him.

  • Peter, you need to realise that the Good Friday Agreement, a document freely entered into by a democratically elected UK government, and designed to bring peace to NI, is itself a binding treaty which circumscribes what we can do in relation to the border. Anyone who would put that peace at risk is unfit to lead the country.

  • Hum Ho.

    As a European living in the UK I stand to lose a lot; whichever way the UK leaves the EU. But I have now come to the point where I wholeheartedly urge the rest of the EU not to give even an eight of an inch to the UK. Which would of course be 3 mm and a bit in proper money (hope you read this, Rees-Mogg). Oops, I seem to be forgetting the double spaces after my periods. Must surely be because I am only an esquire.

    If it costs me, so be it. I have had absolutely enough of the duplicity of this country, of the way ‘forinners’ are treated, of the way we are being seen as queue jumpers, as citizens of nowhere, as scroungers of the UK’s welfare systems, etc. No deal, if it must be, good. May it bring pest and plague onto everyone that thought it necessary to vote leave.

    And for those who are interested, this view is widely held on the continent, even though the EU officials involved will always show a civil face (unlike the jerks on the UK’s side, with their never-ending smarminess (“our friends and partners on the other side”, as jerk-in-chief Johnson forever has it).

    The EU, Tusk, Juncker, Merkel, Macron, Rutte, Von der Leyen, Weyel, Michel, Verhofstadt, Varadkar: Johnson will find out they all run rings around him. A silly Latin or Greek quote or some other stupid joke carries very little weight with those who have a proper grounding in what it means to be really standing on the shoulders of the ancient Greeks and Romans. More power to them. May the beast Boris be slain and fed to the lions. And the same to Alexander.

  • Johnson’s statement that the backstop is undemocratic and that it contravenes the Good Friday Agreement. In a current poll taken by Lucid Talk in Northern Ireland, close on 60% of voters supported the backstop (see Irish News 20/08). AS regards the Good Friday Agreement, Boris may not be aware that 71% of the NI electorate voted in a referendum to sanction the GFA. The figure was 94% in a parallel referendum in the Republic.
    Playing loosely with democracy or plagiarising the GFA to support a disingenuous Brexit is a demonstration of the degree to which fake news has permeated the Johnson Brexit narrative

  • What is actually the most painful after all those years in this country, is to see how within three years is has become a reserve of what must be hysterical mugs. It really takes a lot of effort to keep realizing that half, or hopefully more than half, of the English are not the sort that voted a caricature of a strongman like Johnson and his minions in place.

  • Meulendijk: Well said. I understand your feelings but please remember you also have many friends in the U.K. who appreciate your presence. However, I also have lost faith in my own country and everyday ask myself what the hell is going on.
    This whole sorry affair is the result of a small clique in the Tory party who have manipulated democracy for their own ends. They are supported by some very shady characters who do not want any restriction or regulation to stop them making money. I am sick of the whole affair and hope the EU holds firm. Fat boy Johnson does not need to have any scrap of encouragement to tell further lies.
    Let’s hope we can thwart the fat posh boy and get a second referendum.