E everyone in UK politics has taken a Brexit trip, but some have traveled further than others. On the eve of the referendum, David Frost was Managing Director of the Scotch Whiskey Association and was not convinced by the arguments for leaving the single European market. "Even the best of times can't be so goodthan what we have now ", he wrote in June 2016.
Five years later, Lord Frost is the cabinet minister for rendering a Harder Brexit. As such, he gave a speech on Tuesday rejecting the Northern Ireland Protocol of the Withdrawal Agreement that he was proud of having negotiated two years ago, and proposing new text instead.
Frost 's speech was a complaint disguised as an ode to national self-determination. The root of his frustration is that Northern Ireland is still in the single market (with advantages that were obvious to her young self) .It 's the single market that allowsEU members, via frictionless s, to achieve the collective economic clout that Eurosceptics underestimated before the referendum and now feel.
The rules must be applied at a somewhere, and tried by a court. Out of respect for the Good Friday Agreement, the UK has recognized that no hard s should be re-imposed on the island of Ireland. This principle is stated explicitly in the preamble of the protocol - a final treatise - that Boris Johnson signed in January 2020 . Customs checks, made necessary by Johnson's Brexit model, were instead diverted to Irish Sea ports, infuriating trade unionists in Northern Ireland, who saw the new as a precursor to separation. Constitution of the United Kingdom. The responsee de Johnson was to deny the existence of a and to boast that his deal was a triumph.
Now Downing Street considers it to be a triumph. 'was a terrible deal after all, forced on Britain by malicious mainlanders who, pushed by devious Dublin, made Theresa May accept that Brexit created a puzzle moral around Northern Ireland. It was, in the eyes of the Brexiteer, a scam. Brussels took part of the sovereignty from Britannia's back pocket as she fled to freedom.
Specifically, the court of justice EU still has authority over single market compliance in Northern Ireland. Frost wants this to end. Otherwise, Brexit will not be done entirely. His speech was a veiled threat of a promisese: return the sovereignty stolen and a new era of happy cooperation between the UK and the EU may dawn. Alternatively, Britain will invoke Article 16 of the protocol - the clause allowing for the unilateral suspension of the agreement.
Buyer's remorse general do not constitute the type of emergency envisaged in the treaty as a justification for this action. But this is a point that lawyers must dispute and Johnson ignore. Article 16 is a process and not an event . It starts trouble and doesn't end anything. Triggering it would be a gesture for a national audience, followed by a cascade of ugly consequences.
Britain would refuse to implement controls in the Irish Sea, challenging Brussels to control its rules on another or not from tout. It would be a dereliction of duty of the Good Friday Agreement and an act of crude economic and diplomatic aggression against Ireland, which, in the absence of British cooperation, would be grappling with the problem of leakage of non-conforming goods by land into the market alone.
The dispute could escalate into trade sanctions, which Johnson would describe as an enemy blockade. Shortages and job losses could fit into the Brexit scenario established as a siege, requiring even more blitz and fun allotment turnips over imported delicacies.
Is an agreement available? In theory, always. But that doesn't bode well that Frost's speech was scheduled the day before the European Commission published adaptproposed ations of the protocol . He already knows his demands won't be met, but he preemptively highlights them in a thicker red. This is not the choreography of compromise.
One problem is the Brexiteer's revision of history. Johnson and Frost believe that playing hard with the EU worked in 2019, to get the Withdrawal Agreement, and again in 2020, to get a Free Trade Agreement. Their point of view is that the European Commission does not budge until Britain charges over the edge of the cliff. The logic is wrong. It assumes that deals made at the 11th hour by the most reckless methods were really good. The fact that the government is already giving up and insisting on rewrites rather proves the opposite.
The demand to end the jurisdiction of European courts indicates that Johnson has failed is not serious about the protocol. He knows that the maunique rche and the Court form a whole. Frost asks to erase a fundamental basis of all Brexit negotiations, reset the clock to June 2017, atoning for May's original sin by accepting the primacy of the Irish issue; retracting the British concession that this is any kind of problem.
I have spoken to ministers, diplomats and officials who worked with Johnson and they say, with one voice, that he has no interest in the details of his transactions and does not consider his signature binding. As a former cabinet colleague put it: 'Boris makes fun of Northern Ireland.
The only strategy is Johnson's usual method of lighting fires, getting scarce, watching the flames growspread, then return to the scene in disguise, claiming to be the only man capable of putting out the flames. It could mean accepting an offer in compromise from the EU and calling it victory (as it did in 2019) or entering a trade war, accusing anyone who wants to be reasonable to advocate surrender (as it does in 2019). 'also did in 2019).
This is to be expected. The unknown element, as the economy deteriorates and the cost of living rises, is the public tolerance for more Brexit battle reenactment games. In Brussels, there is none. All the trust and patience are spent . Johnson won't mind. He can see a path, via provocation, to a campaign of economic self-harm characterized as patriotic self-defense. It is a reliable technique as long as 'a sufficient number of voters can be persuaded that their misfortunes are the fault of someone other than the Prime Minister; that it is the antidote and not the poison.
The persistence of this myth depends on the durability of the personality cult that treats the optimistic style of Johnson as an expression of a resilient national spirit. Technical details and legal haggling are subordinate to this political engine of Brexit, which is not ideologically coherent, but deeply personal. It is a project that makes the interest of the leader synonymous with the well-being of people. It rarely ends well, especially not when the leader's methods of clinging to power are sure to impoverish his country.
- Rafael Behr is a chronicler Guardian