Boris the Bold in EU Bust-Up

The first method for estimating the intelligence of a ruler is to look at the men he has around him.

Well, who would have thought it? (Spoiler alert – lots of us).  Boris the Bold has found it just as hard to find a Brexit deal that pleases everyone as Teresa the Mild did.

Is it my imagination or does it seem as though he was never really that fussed about getting a deal in the first place? That all this grandstanding about the nay-sayers and the doomsters being the ones to be trying to prevent our orderly exit from the EU is more about him than the deal. It is more about getting us to the stage where we hold a General Election, the result of which will see him ensconced in Number 10 for the next five years.

At this stage, all I can make out from all the shenanigans is that the EU would have agreed to play nicely, as long as Northern Ireland stays in the Customs Union, thereby fulfilling the promise of the Good Friday Agreement. An agreement, I would like to point out, which has saved lives. Those lives may be far removed from Westminster but it still needs to be pointed out to some, that there are people alive now who might be not alive – i.e., dead, without it.

However, as it looks as though the UK government is insisting on Northern Ireland leaving the customs union with the rest of us, Frau Merkel, Messieurs Macron, Barnier and Tusk will take their bat and ball home and probably lock the playground behind them too. Johnson will then bluster and blame them for being stubborn and intransigent. Today’s leaked memo in The Spectator already shows that plans are being drawn up for changing playground alliances, with the suggestion that pan-European security co-operation will be one of the casualties. Plans that have the signature of Dominic Cummings about them. I don’t know of he thinks he’s modelling himself on Iago, Machiavelli or Warwick the Kingmaker, but he has an agenda that the rest of us seems not to be privy to.

The choice seems to be between Door 1: leave with the deal that Johnson et al have worked out, but Northern Ireland remains in the EU Customs Union, putting the EU border somewhere in the Irish Sea, and Door 2: Northern Ireland doesn’t stay in the EU Customs Union, meaning the EU border will run along the same border as the Republic of Ireland, and meaning we have no EU-agreed deal.

I have an idea. It’s not a very sophisticated idea but, why don’t we just ask the people who will be most affected by this? We could call it a referendum on the Irish border. The rest of us leave the EU because we have to or the whole idea of democracy is dead in the water. Ask the people who live in Northern Ireland whether they want to continue to be in the EU customs union with a soft border between them and the Republic, or out of the EU customs union and have a hard border, like in the old days? Whatever result we got – and it could be as narrow as say, oh, I don’t know, 52/48, would have to stand. It would be The Will of the People.



About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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