Our latest BEERG Byte videocast features myself and Baroness Margaret Ritchie, an independent member of the House of Lords discussing the impact of Brexit on the cohesion of the United Kingdom, specifically as it will affect both Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Last week was some Brexit week, a week in which the UK government introduced legislation, the internal market bill, which a government minister admitted in the Commons would break international law, but only in a “specific and limited way”.
The minister, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Brandon Lewis MP, was talking about the powers the government proposed to take which would allow them to override provisions in the Withdrawal Act signed with the EU in 2019 when it comes to the movement of goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The UK, according to the minister, was deliberately and consciously going to break an international treaty that it had only recently signed.
The international treaty, the Withdrawal Agreement, provides that Northern Ireland, a part of the United Kingdom, will remain in the EU’s customs union and single market for goods to avoid rebuilding a hard border on the island of Ireland between Northern Ireland and Ireland, a continuing member of the EU.
This blogpost was written on Tuesday morning, Oct 8th.
As things stand, the UK is due to leave the EU on October 31st next. UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, has said he will take the UK out on that date, “do or die”. However, the UK parliament has passed legislation, The Benn Act, which instructs the prime minister to request a further Brexit extension from the EU should there be no withdrawal agreement in place by October 31.
Johnson has said that his government will “obey the law” but will still take the UK out of the EU on October 31 next. At the same time, he has given an assurance to the Scottish courts that he will write the mandated extension letter to the EU, if necessary.
“Alice laughed: “There’s no use trying,” she said; “one can’t believe impossible things.” “I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
It would appear that the only way that the UK can now leave the EU on October 31st next is with a “Brexit deal”. The former prime minister, Theresa May, had negotiated such a deal but it was rejected three times by the House of Commons for a variety of reasons.
The ideological complexion of the Johnson administration makes a no-deal Brexit more and more likely and businesses need to get ready accordingly. At the very least, they need to prepare for a prolonged period of great uncertainty in the UK and in the UK’s relationship with the European Union.
The replacement of Theresa May by Boris Johnson was not just a change of personnel at the top. Nor was it just a change in the negotiating approach to Brussels with Johnson adopting a Trump-like “madman” demeanour, as he famously suggested he would, if given half a chance, at a dinner in London in 2018:
“Imagine Trump doing Brexit,” Johnson added. “He’d go in bloody hard … There’d be all sorts of breakdowns, all sorts of chaos. Everyone would think he’d gone mad. But actually you might get somewhere. It’s a very, very good thought.”
This blogpost was written on Thursday evening July 18th, 2019
Nye Bevan, the British Labour politician credited with creating the National Health Service (NHS), once said: “You don’t have to gaze into a crystal ball when you can read an open book”.
According to a report published by BuzzFeed News, Boris Johnson, who in all likelihood will be declared the new leader of the Tory Party next week, opening the door to him becoming Prime Minister, is quoted as saying at a private dinner in June 2018:
“Imagine Trump doing Brexit… I have become more and more convinced that there is method in his madness…. He’d go in bloody hard … There would be all sorts of breakdowns, there would be all sorts of chaos. Everyone would think he’d gone mad. But actually you might get somewhere. It’s a very, very good thought.”
It seems to me that Johnson thinks he can do a “Trump” with the Brexit negotiations. Go in, smash everything up, and see what happens. The EU will take fright at the chaos, throw Ireland under a bus and give Johnson what he wants.
Chris Grey calls it the “Nixon as madman” theory. Let’s describe it as the Trumpian/Nixon approach, a madman out of control. “Quick, give him what he wants before he wrecks the place”.
At the heart of the original Eurosceptic critique of the UK’s membership of the European Union (EU) was the contention that the people of the UK had never been told the unvarnished truth about what EU membership would involve and the sovereignty they would have to sacrifice. They were “deceived” into backing membership and because they were so deceived the UK’s membership always lacked legitimacy. It was a house of cards built on a foundation of lies, Eurosceptics contended.
The original critique was, in essence, that the UK never voted to be a province of a “country called Europe”. It would be more than happy to be involved in a customs union and single market, an EFTA/EEA business arrangement, stripped of all references to a political journey ending in an “ever closer union”. Trading together as free nations, preferably without any of the “supranational” decision making that was the hallmark of the EU. Preferably under “common sense” British leadership.