Monday 23 September 2019

John Downing: 'Who, if anyone, will blink first as we head for Brexit carnage?'


Will it be do-or-die Boris Johnson or the rest of the European Union’s leaders? Photo: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
Will it be do-or-die Boris Johnson or the rest of the European Union’s leaders? Photo: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
John Downing

John Downing

David Tynan O'Mahony - better known as the comedian Dave Allen - had various versions on how he lost one of his fingers.

An engaging tale was based on two opposing assumptions. In that account, he was holding a block of wood, and his father was wielding a hatchet to cut kindling.

The young boy assumed his father would never knowingly harm him; the father assumed his son would, at the last moment, take his hand out of harm's way. Result: a nine-fingered young lad.

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He had a variety of other explanations, including his brother chomping it off in competition for food at the table, and how his favourite tipple, whiskey, corroded his flesh.

The veracity of these versions is not important - what is important is what these tales tell us about human life.

Those assumptions, by the wood-holding son and the axe-wielding father, tell us a lot about Brexit. It's another take on who will blink first to avoid the mutual carnage of a no-deal Brexit on October 31 next.

Will it be do-or-die Boris Johnson or the rest of the European Union's leaders?

Ireland's Culture Minister, Josepha Madigan, yesterday ventured that the "boy Boris", for all his posturing and rhetoric, will fold first.

Ms Madigan borrowed heavily from her own mediation experiences as a family lawyer in dealing with pretty visceral disputes. "I've seen that in my legal profession. It can happen between countries as well, it's the same principle," she said.

After that strident departure, she quickly dialled things down. A working and acceptable alternative to the Irish Border backstop seemed unlikely, yet we live in hope. "I don't see how that's in any way achievable at the moment, but there is always hope," she said.

Then, a little later in the day, her senior Cabinet colleague, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe, strongly suggested that neither side is likely to blink. He frankly said we appear headed for a very disorderly Brexit.

By now none of us knows 100pc, especially the experts who have followed every cough and spit in this black Brexit tragedy. But this writer would put his money on the Finance Minister's assessment.

It is highly unlikely Boris Johnson will suddenly decide to tiptoe through the viscous layers of paint he has lavished upon the floorboards on his way into that do-or-die Brexit corner. Brexit was the vehicle which took him to Downing Street and he sees it as the means of staying there.

The rest is a noisy blame game. Mr Johnson will further pump up the volume on his existing cries that he was ready to deal - but the rest of the European Union's leaders would not engage.

He hopes there are enough hardline Brexit voters in an upcoming general election to propel him back into office on a more durable basis. Those are the assumptions on which "deal or no-deal Brexit" turns.

Irish Independent

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