Johnson Follies

11 September 2020


Cogito Ergo Non Serviam

UK Tries to Rewrite EU Withdrawal Agreement


The government of the UK agreed with the EU back in January on the terms of British withdrawal from the EU. There is a signed treaty binding in international law between the parties. This week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that he was going to have to rewrite some of the terms. His Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis told the House of Commons that this would "break international law" although it would be in "limited and specific ways." This means that the entire election campaign of the Tory Party in December was based on a lie. One is not surprised by the fact that the Johnson team lied, but this is on a level approaching Trumpian deceit.

At issue is the a bill that would amend the Irish protocol of the agreement. The government claim that certain consequences of the deal "were not foreseen" when it was agreed. The treaty, therefore, must be "rewritten to protect the union." This is, not to put too fine a point on it, pure bollocks.

The whole Irish protocol exists to prevent the creation of a border between the counties that compose the Irish Republic and those that form the British province of Ulster. Northern Ireland largely stays in the EU customs union and single market de facto, if not entirely de jure. As this journal repeatedly stated through the Brexit disaster, a border between Ireland and Ulster can only be avoided if there is a border between Ulster and the rest of the UK. The only alternative to that is no Brexit at all. The Johnson government knew that as well.

Fintan O'Toole (perhaps the best analyst of the situation in the world) put it beautifully in the Guardian yesterday when he wrote, "The idea that Johnson has suddenly realised that the protocol effectively keeps Northern Ireland within the ambit of the EU’s customs union and single market, and thus has negative implications for the union, is risible. This was precisely what Johnson’s close allies in the Democratic Unionist Party were screaming about when he made the agreement in October 2019. It was the reason why Johnson himself had sworn blind to the DUP that he would never agree to such a thing. If Johnson didn’t see that a radically different Brexit for one part of the UK would destabilise the union, he is an idiot. But in this case, he can be exonerated on that charge -- he knew damn well and did it anyway."

With the rewrite, the Brexiteers would get exactly what their fantasy called for in the referendum, all the benefits of membership in the EU without all the ugliness of dealing with foreigners. The trouble is that it requires Britain to violate international law, get the Irish government to agree to the duplicity and for Brussels to turn a blind eye to the whole thing. This will happen the same day the sun rises in the west.

Still, so long as Johnny Foreigner was the only chap being done over, that was all right. The trouble is that every Tory voter in Britain was deceived as well. The backlash among Tory MPs has been significant, and it is badly timed for the government. With a fiasco over school exams not held thanks to the pandemic, and with England's R Nought rate for the virus exceeding 1 (meaning it's accelerating), this is not the time for the governing party to be divided.

Former Tory Leader Michael Lord Howard told Sky News, "I never thought it was a thing I’d hear a British minister, far less a Conservative minister, say, which is that the government was going to invite parliament to act in breach of international law." Tobias Ellwood, the chair of the Commons defence select committee, tweeted, "The rule of law is everything -- if we forget this we forget who we are, what we stand for and the moral high ground that forms the foundation of our soft power."

Worst of all, the bill has no chance of getting through the House of Lords where the government lacks a majority. Getting Labour, Liberal, Nationalist and cross-bench peers to vote for a violation of international law is preposterous.

This journal predicts that Boris Johnson will have to resign as prime minister in 2022 thanks to follies like this.

© Copyright 2020 by The Kensington Review, Jeff Myhre, PhD, Editor. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written consent. Produced using Ubuntu Linux.

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