Boris Johnson, Brexit, Michel Barnier, Parody

#BorisJohnson goes to #Brussels – A #Brexit parody

We imagined the first formal encounter of UK PM-to-be, Boris Johnson, and the EU’s Michel Barnier:

Boris-Johnson-July-2016

EU Good morning Prime Minister and congratulations
Johnson Call me Boris… call me Boris. None of this formal stuff. Gets in the way. I’m not like that woman, May. Not a funny bone in her body. She was a bloody difficult woman. Said so herself.
EU I’m sorry Prime Minister. But we here in the EU are a formal organisation. We have to follow the rules. So, Prime Minister it will have to be.
Johnson If you must, you must. Don’t mind if I call you Barny?
EU I would prefer Monsieur Barnier, if you please. We should say that we are aware that over many years you never had anything positive to say about the EU. We have a file of your articles to hand here if you would like us to quote.
Johnson Have it your own way. You frogs were always very formal. I’m only surprised you are not wearing a striped tee-shirt. Ha, ha.

As for those articles, out of context. Just fun. Having a laugh. Even the Telegraph says you can’t take anything I write seriously. I was just ahead of the game with “alternative facts”. Trump told me he learned a lot from me. He also told me to come in here and break up the place. That’s the way to negotiate. Ha, ha.

EU Prime Minister, we understand you wish to discuss Brexit with us. You do realise that the Withdrawal Agreement, as agreed with Mrs. May, is closed and cannot be reopened?
Johnson That agreement has been rejected three times by the House of Commons and won’t fly. Dead as a Monty Python parrot.

We must disaggregate it and keep the good bits, get rid of the bad. The backstop thing. We can do a deal. Wrap this up during the afternoon over a cup of tea. Liam Fox told me it could be done. Just needed a bit of bulldog spirit.

EU That is not going to be possible. The WA is closed. We will not reopen it or disaggregate it. However, we can certainly discuss the Political Declaration on the future relationship if you see the future differently from Mrs May.
Johnson Come on chaps. Don’t be unreasonable. We can sign off on citizens’ rights and all that. I was terribly upset when Lord Lawson had to leave his chateau in France. I want to see him go back to enjoy his sunset years in bucolic splendour among the vines. In vino veritas and all that. Latin, great language.
EU We are sorry. The WA will not be reopened. There can be no separate deal on citizens’ rights. Of course, we want to see those rights protected in the context of an orderly UK withdrawal from the EU and protected by the European Court as provided for in the WA. But we are not going to do “mini-deals”.
Johnson But I am also prepared to pay the £39bn, hand over the moolah. I’ll sign the cheque here and now. Could someone pass me the UK chequebook and a pen? I’ll make it out to cash if that helps. You can bring it to the Bank of England and they’ll hand over the cash, no questions asked. But hey, if we can’t do a deal I can’t sign the cheque. No moolah, a big hole in your budget.
EU Prime Minister, I think you misunderstand. The £39bn is not a one-off payment. It falls due over many years. Some of it goes to pay the pensions of British citizens who have worked here in the EU. As we see it, the UK has a legal obligation to pay it. If you are not prepared to pay it, then these discussions must come to an end. We might add that if we don’t have a deal then the tariffs that will be imposed on UK goods will go a long way to covering the loss of the €39bn. And, no, we don’t take cash.
Johnson But Moggy says we don’t owe the money. He has a report that was drawn up by the House of Lords which says we don’t. He says you claiming we do is just a pile of piffle on stilts. You are trying it on. You can’t get much clearer than the House of Lords
EU Prime Minister, we have a report prepared by our legal experts which says you do. We’ll take the advice of our experts over the report of the Lords. You have an duty to meet the obligations you committed to. If you don’t meet those obligations then we can go no further. May we remind you the UK is leaving the EU. We just want you to settle your bills before you go. We didn’t ask you to leave.
Johnson What’s this tariff stuff? If we have no deal we’ll be trading with you under the GATT XXIV, whatever you call it 10-year thingy. No tariffs. So you won’t be collecting any tariffs. Hadn’t thought of that, had you?
EU We think you misunderstand GATT XXIV. That only applies if two parties have agreed to negotiate a trade deal. The clue is in the word “agreed”. No agreement, no GATT XXIV, and tariffs apply.
Johnson But we have agreed to negotiate a trade agreement. It is in the Political Declaration. Now, I don’t like what May had suggested. I want one of those super-duper Canada Dry+++ deals. Preferably with gin or vodka, ha, ha.

So, the GATT thingy applies.

EU You are quite right Prime Minister. We have committed in the PD to negotiate a trade deal. But the PD comes with the WA. You can’t have one without the other. No WA, no PD. No PD no trade negotiations. No trade negotiations, tariffs apply.
Johnson Can we not agree that if we don’t have the WA we can just go straight into the transition and negotiate a trade deal and apply the GATT thingy while we are doing that. We can also sort out the Irish during the transition. As the Saj suggested, we’ll just spaff them some cash to buy some computers and iPads. They can play FIFA 2020 on them. Keep them busy. Money makes the world go around, that happy clicking sound. Always did it for me as a journo.
EU Prime Minister, again you misunderstand. If there is no WA, there is no transition. The UK leaves the EU with no agreement and no agreement means no transition. You become a third country from the minute you leave. Without a trade deal. As you might put it yourself: crash, bang, wallop.
Johnson But lot of pre-Brexit experts have told me that we can skip the WA and go into a GATT XXIV transition which would be the same as your transition only we don’t have to pay and there would be no backstop. Unlike Govey, I have a lot of respect for experts. They even gave me a plan written by that very clever Singy chap.  Brexit, From Here to Eternity, I think it is called. Top notch.
EU Prime Minister. We think there are some misunderstandings here. No WA, no transition of any sort. The transition that the UK government asked for, and that we agreed to, would see the UK leave the EU on the basis of the WA. Then, for two years, maybe four, nothing would change and the UK would continue as if it were an EU member but with no Commissioner, no MEPs and no judge in the European Court. During this transition we could negotiate future arrangements.
Johnson Cripes, does Farage know he won’t be an MEP? Nadine Dorries said she thought it was unfair that we won’t have any MEPs after Brexit. Anything you could do about that? If we have a transition could you not keep them for a few more years? You’d hardly notice them about the place. Farage only ever turns up to collect his expenses and make YouTube speeches.
EU To continue. If, in the absence of a WA, we were to agree to negotiate a trade agreement, which we won’t, and GATT 24 applied, then it would only cover trade in goods. Services would be excluded. Services exports to the EU account for 50% of all UK service exports. Data flows to the UK from the EU would be cut off as you would be outside the scope of the GDPR. Oh, and UK phone companies would e free to apply roaming charges.
Johnson But the ERG says we could do mini-deals on all of these things. Easy-peasy. But look, the only thing standing in the way of a deal is this backstop thing. Now, I tried to talk to the Irish but they wouldn’t talk to me and told me I had to talk to you. I don’t understand them. After all, they are part of the British Isles and we should be able to sort out these things domestically, between us. I’d even let them back into the Commonwealth.
EU Prime Minister, Ireland is a sovereign country, a member of the EU. In the EU we work as a team. Strength in numbers. And we are committed to protecting the vital interests of Ireland, which are also the vital interests of the EU.

The backstop is part of the WA. It underwrites the Good Friday Agreement. It also protects the integrity of our single market. No substandard Chinese good, for example, coming in through the backdoor. Need we remind you that the people of NI voted 56% to 44% to remain in the EU and that two of its three MEPs are pro-remain. And the border issue is about much more than trade, as is North-South cooperation.

And no, no mini-deals.

Johnson Yes, I know all that. But if we have the backstop we won’t be able to negotiate trade deals on our own. And if we can’t negotiate trade deals what is little Liam Fox to do? His heart will be broken. Can you not agree that the backstop will only last five years and will then be replaced by alternative arrangements? Whatever they are. We could agree to work hard together to discover them. With something like that I could go back to the Commons. The “Boris Breakthrough” we could call it.
EU We can certainly work together to discover alternative arrangements. That is already in the WA/PD. But what if such arrangements cannot be found? That’s why we have the backstop. And alternative arrangements alone won’t solve the border issue.

And may we remind you that we originally proposed that the backstop only apply to Northern Ireland. It was the UK government that asked us to apply it to the whole of the UK. We reluctantly agreed. The backstop stays.

Johnson No deal it is then. No payment and no backstop. Can we agree to immediately open negotiations on a trade deal after we leave?
EU Certainly. We can begin preparations today. But we will only open such negotiations after we have reached an agreement on your outstanding financial obligations, citizens’ rights and the backstop. We can call it an “exit package” as opposed to a Withdrawal Agreement if that helps. And, of course, there will be no transition. May we ask if there is now a majority in the Commons for no-deal”
Johnson GATT XXIV?
EU Certainly. After you have fixed your bills….
Johnson You said we asked for the backstop to be extended to the whole of the UK? Yes? What if we changed our minds and agreed that the backstop only applied to NI?
EU That would not be a problem for us. We would not regard that as reopening the WA but as the UK withdrawing a request.
Johnson So, I could go home and say that I had gotten rid of the backstop and that we are free to negotiate our own trade deals but that we will have to make special provisions for NI, which most people in NI want anyway, that we have agreed that there is no one-off payment of £39bn, the money is phased, citizens’ rights are guaranteed and we get a transition to negotiate a super-duper Canada+++ trade agreement.

So, it’s the “Boris Breakthrough” or a general election as the Commons won’t agree to no-deal. And a general election could mean I would no longer be Prime Minister. Something I am entitled to be.

Fox was right. We could sort it out over tea in an afternoon.

EU Yes, Prime Minister

 

 

Article 50, Backstop, Boris Johnson, Brexit, Conservative Party, Theresa May

3 years after #Brexit vote: EU is more united and Brexit is less clear

This blogpost was written on Sunday June 16th, 2019

AACSCdX

Next Sunday will be June 23rd. It will be three years on from the date the UK voted to leave the European Union. Or, to be more accurate, the date a majority of those who voted in England and Wales so voted, while a majority in Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to stay.

History may well decide that June 23, 2016 was not only the date on which the UK voted to leave the E.U. but that it was also the date the United Kingdom began to crack. The date on which the United Kingdom became disunited.

With just a week to go to the third anniversary of the vote to leave we still have no idea what leave means and when it will happen. If, indeed, it will happen. Never has a project of such constitutional and economic importance been so ill-conceived, ill-prepared and ill-managed.

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Backstop, Boris Johnson, Brexit, Conservative Party, Northern Ireland

Boris Leaves #Brexit Wriggle Room

This blogpost was written on Sunday morning, June 9th, 2019

theresa-may-boris-johnson

It’s as if the past three years never happened. Airbrush Theresa May and her Brexit negotiations out of history. It’s back to the morning after the referendum and the UK “holds all the cards”.

Well, that seems to be the way Boris Johnson, favourite to become the next Tory leader and Prime Minister, sees it. Or, at least, wants us to see it. Maybe it is all smoke and mirrors.

In an interview in the Sunday Times, Johnson says that, if elected his government would:

  • Hold on to the £39bn Brexit divorce payment until Brussels agreed more favourable terms
  • Scrap the Northern Ireland Backstop and settle the Irish border issue only when the EU was ready to agree a future relationship
  • Guarantee the rights of the 3.2m EU citizens living in the UK
  • Step up preparations for no-deal and prepare for “disruption”.

If there is no deal with the EU on these terms, he would then take the UK out on October 31st next with no deal. Raw, red meat for the Brexit ultras, it would seem.

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Backstop, Boris Johnson, Brexit, Irish border, Northern Ireland

For Ireland: the only good #Brexit is No-Brexit

This blogpost was written on Sunday June 2nd 2019
NI MEPs
Northern Ireland’s 3 MEPs: 2 Remainers & 1 Leaver

For Ireland, the only good Brexit is no Brexit. That goes for Ireland and for Northern Ireland (NI). Little noticed during the past week in the UK press, much less commented on, was the fact that in the European Parliament (EP) elections a majority of people in Northern Ireland voted for Remain candidates.

Of the three NI MEPs, two are now Remainers. Meanwhile in the rest of Ireland you would need a microscope to see the votes the Irexit candidates got. Calls for Ireland to follow the UK out of the EU simply have no traction.

But then, when it comes to NI, the UK behaves a bit like Boris Johnson when he was foreign secretary. Whenever his officials brought him Brexit news he didn’t want to hear he would stick his fingers in his ears and sing God Save the Queen. Or it could have been Rule Brexannia.

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Backstop, Brexit, British Government, Conservative Party, Data Protection, Negotiating

There’s no #EP2019 #Brexit domino effect. UK is on its own

This Blogpost was written on Tuesday May 28th, 2019

Election night at the European Parliament in Brussels

Tuesday, May 28, 2019. Two days after the European Parliament elections and the political landscape becomes a little clearer.

There has been no “right-wing/populist” surge of the sort that many commentators were predicting some months back. True, the hold on the parliament that has been exercised by the centre-right EPP and centre-left S&D, working together, has been broken. That’s no bad thing. But it has been broken by the very pro-EU Liberals and Greens and not by the extreme right of France’s le Pen and Italy’s Salvini.

Even in the UK, “hard-core” remain parties such as the Liberal Democrats and Greens polled 40% against 35% for the Brexit Party and the now defunct UKIP. With the Tories and Labour on a combined 23%, the numbers suggest that there is now a narrow majority in the UK in favour of remaining in the EU.

Inside the European Parliament it is the parties based on civilised and democratic values, who between them hold around 70% of the seats, that will determine the future of the EU and have a critical say in deciding who will be the next president of the European Commission and other top jobs in Brussels.

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Backstop, Boris Johnson, Brexit, Theresa May

Exit the May; Enter the Boris? #Brexit

This blogpost was written on Tuesday May 21st 

theresa-may-boris-johnson

I am slowly losing the will to live. Brexit is driving me to despair. I’m not sure how much more of this stuff I can take. I have tried to make sense of it. God knows I have tried. But no matter how hard I try, and I try hard, I just can’t seem to understand what it is the UK wants. Does anyone?

If indeed you can even say “the UK” as there is little agreement between its four constituent parts, England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, over Brexit. But let’s wait and see what numbers the European Parliament elections throw up next weekend. I have little doubt that the “pop-up” Brexit Party of Farage will win about a third of the votes. Which means that two-thirds of the electorate will not be voting for Farage fantasies.

I suspect, when the numbers are sliced and diced, that they will show the UK still pretty evenly split between Leave and Remain, though perhaps with a small lead for Remain. How does any politician deliver major constitutional and economic change in such circumstances without causing deep and long-lasting splits in the community? Quite frankly, it becomes next to impossible to do so.

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Brexit, British Government, Conservative Party, Customs Union, Single Market

3 years after the impossible promise of #Brexit: all you get is ‘True Britism’

This blogpost was written on Monday May 13th:

Brexit cartoon

Over the past week, as nothing much has been happening in the Brexit process, we have seen several outbreaks of a somewhat virulent disease known as “True Britism”. It is one of those viruses which can lie dormant for a long time, though there can be the occasional flareup. But it really becomes rampant when a Tory leadership election is in the offing. Once this happens, the political and environmental conditions are ideal for the virus to go, well, viral.

Once you are aware of the existence of this disease, it is easy to spot the sufferers. For a start, it is restricted to a particular demographic: Brexiteers, mostly of the “Hard Brexit” variety. The symptoms generally consist of a constant repetition of clichés such as: “we hold all the cards”; “we have all the money”; and the latest “we could have held Ireland hostage”.

For example, just last week the Tory MP, Chris Blunt, tweeted:

UK side had the money, the people, the huge trade deficit, amongst other advantages, including a hostage, the RoI, if EU behaved like this. We capitulated. Olly Robbins reported application for Belgian citizenship when it’s over helps explain the mindset of our negotiators.

“True Britism”, at its core, is a belief that if only a “True Brit” with “True Grit” had been in charge of the negotiations, the EU would have crumbled at first contact.

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