Friday 20 September 2019

Kevin Doyle: 'PM Boris Johnson proves to be polite breakfast guest - but his menu falls short'


Boris Johnson and Leo Varadkar. Photo: REUTERS/Phil Noble
Boris Johnson and Leo Varadkar. Photo: REUTERS/Phil Noble
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Short of serving Boris Johnson a breakfast of kippers on plastic ice pillows, the Taoiseach couldn't have been any clearer.

Ireland accepts Brexit is happening but we are at the moment of truth. The myths around the backstop must end, and this idea that it all ends on October 31 must be quashed.

"There is no such thing as a clean break. No such thing as just getting it done," Leo Varadkar said. In the best-case scenario, a deal is done and both sides move on to discuss the future trade relationship.

"Prime minister, negotiating FTAs with the EU and US and securing their ratification in less than three years is going to be a Herculean task for you. We want to be your friend and ally, your Athena, in doing so," he said.

That was no false offer given that Ireland's Phil Hogan will today be anointed as the new EU Commissioner for Trade.

Without a deal, Mr Varadkar predicted "severe disruption for British and Irish people alike" before they all ended up back at the table talking about exactly the same conundrum as today.

The Taoiseach's tone was in no way threatening but his words were.

Much of his pre-scripted contribution on the steps of Government Buildings was a statement of the obvious for people who exist outside the bubble of the Tory press. But it had to be said.

The prime minister is boxed in at home and he now knows that his bullish charge towards no deal will not open up a road to redemption that cuts straight through the backstop. However, it has to be noted that Mr Johnson's attitude in Dublin was more gracious than his hosts expected.

There was much less 'spirit of the Blitz' and more 'spirit of compromise'.

He made an earnest attempt at convincing EU leaders and his own parliament that he actually wants to do business.

"I have one message that I want to land with you today, Leo, that is I want to find a deal, I want to get a deal," he said.

"Like you I've looked carefully at no deal, I've assessed its consequences both for our country and yours," he said.

He summarised that the UK "could certainly get through it" but trailed off without giving Irish viewers the same reassurance that we will survive 'Brexitmageddon'.

Luckily for all involved, he revealed he has an "abundance of proposals" for bringing the entire débâcle to a satisfactory conclusion. But he's not ready for the 'big reveal' yet. Hopefully he now realises that it's not as simple as collecting a congestion charge from traffic moving between Islington or Camden and Westminster.

Time is short but will tell whether the PM's efforts were genuine or more bluster.

For the record, I'm reliably informed the breakfast served was a menu of pastries, cheese and fruit, yogurt and granola, fresh orange juice and coffee. Perhaps that was the most unpalatable bit of Mr Johnson's day.

Irish Independent

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