Wednesday 12 December 2018

Johnson ignores Irish conundrum as he bids to rally the Brexiteers

Boris Johnson before his speech. Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA
Boris Johnson before his speech. Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA

Shona Murray

Boris Johnson faced a backlash as he tried to woo the British electorate with a pro-Brexit speech that failed to mention the crucial question of the Irish Border.

A second referendum on EU membership would trigger "permanent and ineradicable feelings of betrayal", the UK foreign secretary claimed.

But much of what he said was based on yet-to-be-negotiated deals, with no outline of policies or plans on how to achieve them.

The British government hasn't even begun to negotiate a post-Brexit aviation deal with the EU, meaning there is currently no guarantee that flights from Heathrow and other British airports won't be grounded in March 2019.

However, Mr Johnson assured the British public "cheapo flights to stag dos" would still be on the cards after the UK leaves the EU.

It is coming up to two years since the referendum, yet there are still no specifics on what type of relationship Britain hopes to have with the EU, and yesterday's speech did not fill that void.

If the UK leaves the customs union and single market in order to strike bountiful trade deals, it is already severely limited by the fact it may have to remain aligned with EU standards and regulations.

This is the back-stop deal that was agreed with the EU and the Irish Government to prevent a hard Border.

However, Mr Johnson made no reference to it although it is due to be transformed into legal text next month.

Instead, the staunch Tory Brexiteer alluded to a vision that appeared to be led by considerable regulatory divergence.

"It may be that we will need a regulatory framework, scrupulous and moral, but not afraid of the new," he said.

There was no mention of Britain's outright obligation to the Good Friday Agreement, or the conundrum of maintaining the status quo on the Border while manufacturing and exporting goods and services of vastly different standard around the UK.

Fianna Fáil Brexit spokesman Stephen Donnelly noted Mr Johnson had cited regulatory divergence as a reason for Brexit.

"At the same time, he didn't mention Ireland, Northern Ireland or a border even once," said Mr Donnelly.

"As such, everything may rest on this so-called backstop. No Border controls of any kind can be countenanced on the island of Ireland, so important questions must be asked," he added.

Irish Independent

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