A “scam”. That was the description offered during the week by Jonathan Powell, the former United Kingdom chief negotiator at the time of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, when discussing leaked proposals by the UK premier Boris Johnson to end the current Brexit impasse between Britain and the European Union. And sure enough the plan unveiled on Wednesday at the Conservative Party annual conference in Manchester had all the hallmarks of a carefully conceived con job. Albeit a con largely aimed at a British audience, with the hopes of stoking up further self-righteous indignation among the UK’s Leave-supporting electorate by convincing it that the country had done all that it could to reach an equitable exit agreement with the EU. And that the ingrates of Europe had no one to blame but themselves if they rejected a “fair and reasonable compromise”.
In fact Downing Street’s suggested plan was not just a repudiation of a previously agreed understanding between London and Brussels, itself the end result of two years of torturous negotiations, but swift analysis has shown it to be unworkable on almost every level: politically, legally, regulatory and so on. It is a nonsense, a would-be smoke and mirrors trick that might deceive the willingly gullible in the UK but is glaringly obvious to the EU. So we are again, stuck with a non-deal from the elected leaders of Britain that will lengthen that nation’s non-Brexit and with no obvious end date in sight, despite all the machinations and tactical plays of Leavers and Remainers alike.
The Brexiteers may think that they can make Ireland and the rest of Europe the scapegoats for the deliberate scuppering of any real prospect of an amicable separation between the UK and the EU, and the Tories’ hibernophobic and europhobic allies in the Democratic Unionist Party were on the attack within hours of Boris Johnson finishing his speech at the Conservative Party conference, but few informed people will be fooled by this. Even on the other side of the Irish Sea.
For some evidence of that realism in Britain one can reference the episode below of the BBC’s Question Time political panel show where even a hard-right Brexit-loving, Irish-despising newspaper columnist and guest struggled to find any merit in the British government’s threadbare alternative to the Backstop Protocol and the Draft Withdrawal Agreement already signed up to by Boris Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May.