This article was published by the Edinburgh Evening News on 19th September 2019. You can also read the Evening News version online, here.
It’s a very old and disingenuous political tactic. Ask for something you can’t get, in the knowledge you can’t get it, then complain and blame the other side when it’s not given.
That’s the tactic currently being deployed by Boris Johnson in his barely half-hearted negotiating stance with the EU.
The surprising thing is that he thinks we don’t see this.
He has gone around European capitals speaking with European leaders and they have all delivered the same conclusion – he is not taking these negotiations seriously and has nothing to offer.
The reason he has nothing to offer is because he doesn’t have anything. The issue of the now infamous “backstop” for Northern Ireland is irresolvable with the red lines that his Government has set themselves.
Boris Johnson wants to be out of the EU Single Market and Customs Union. That simply means that Northern Ireland will not be in the EU but share a land border with the Republic of Ireland who will be. As soon as the trading rules and immigration system in Northern Ireland diverge from the Republic, then you will have to check goods and people at the border. It’s trading rules 101.
The “backstop”, that is written into the divorce agreement with the EU, is the agreed EU insurance policy to keep the UK, including Northern Ireland, in some aspects of the EU Customs Union and Single Market to prevent a hard border so as not to compromise the Good Friday Peace Agreement. This would come into effect if a future free-trade agreement to prevent a border is not agreed between the UK and the EU by the end of 2020.
The insurance policy is in place because the EU knows, and we all know, that what Boris Johnson is demanding can’t be met. You can’t be in a different regulatory and trading regime and not have borders.
But the PM keeps saying that he will not accept this and has “alternative arrangements”. The problem is he has not told anyone what these “alternative arrangements” are. Why? Because they don’t exist. The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, has called him out on this by giving him 30 days to present these alternatives for negotiation.
Those 30 days are almost up, and nothing has been forthcoming despite the PM promising to bring forward proposals “long before” the deadline. He has said that new proposals “have not yet been made”.
Boris Johnson should not be pretending to negotiate with the EU if there are no new proposals on the table.
The only conclusion that we can reach is that he wants to deliver a catastrophic no-deal Brexit whilst blaming the EU.
He also claims that the UK will leave the EU on October 31 despite Parliament passing a law that prevents this from happening. He has until the EU Council on October 19 to get a deal or no-deal vote through parliament or he must, by law, seek an extension to January 31, 2020. He is saying he may break the law.
Given he is already being taken to the Supreme Court where 11 of the most senior judges in the UK will determine if he lied to the Queen about suspending parliament, and the fact that he has been caught out being economical with the truth on a large number of occasions, I’m not sure we can trust a word this Prime Minister says.
And if he breaks the law what message will that send out to the public?
This mess needs to be resolved. I will be addressing the European Movement in Scotland march in Edinburgh on Saturday and making the point that the only way to pull the country back from the brink and end this saga will be to put any deal parliament approves back to the people for a final say with the option to remain in the EU. That has been my long-held view and it has never altered. I’m delighted it is also now Labour Party policy.
That way we cut through the childish games Boris Johnson is playing before it is too late.