Sunday 25 August 2019

Kevin Doyle: 'Time has come to turbocharge planning and be ready for no deal'


Making waves: Boris Johnson at the door of Number 10 Downing Street. Photo: Getty Images
Making waves: Boris Johnson at the door of Number 10 Downing Street. Photo: Getty Images
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Silly season is upon us but it's no laughing matter. It's actually hard to describe how depressing the situation is. We live in an era that is both perilous and unpredictable in equal measure.

A few weeks ago, there was an assumption in Government circles than once the Conservative leadership contest was won, Boris Johnson would adopt a more nuanced approach to politics.

The same was said about Donald Trump after his election but you'll recall his inauguration speech was far from diplomatic.

The clown to the left of us and the joker to the right are now threatening life as we know it.

That might sound dramatic but we are markedly closer to a no-deal Brexit this morning than we have been at any other time in the turbulent three years since the referendum.

Johnson has packed his cabinet with hardline Brexiteers, many of whom have shown themselves to be clueless on Irish issues in the past.

In his first contributions to the House of Commons as prime minister, Johnson sought to torpedo the backstop while "turbocharging" preparations for a no-deal break on October 31 if the EU refused to engage.

But how do you even engage with someone like Boris Johnson. The Irish Government needs to tread extremely carefully. We have been 'Team EU' since the start of these negotiations and must remain there for the foreseeable future.

There is no immediate sense that the EU is going to dump the backstop to appease Johnson. The conveniently leaked memo from the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier said as much. He described the demands to abolish the backstop as "unacceptable".

At this stage, the EU cannot afford to allow Johnson to win - but that doesn't mean we can't all lose.

If the EU caves to the new prime minister, it will make a mockery of everything our parents taught us growing up about basic decency and respect. The bombastic bully isn't supposed to get their way in the end.

However, the first 24 hours of Johnson's reign suggests he is not only prepared to walk over the cliff, he'll leap off it if need be.

And should that happen, we need to be ready. Physically and psychologically.

The Government has produced a variety of reports about how bad things will be. We know the economy will take a belt, tens of thousands of jobs will be lost and some form of Border checks will return - but did we ever really believe it would happen?

Well, now is the time to start believing.

And having recently admitted that checks will be needed if we are to stop Johnson dragging Ireland out of the EU single market, there is now an onus on our leaders to tell us the next steps. Otherwise, reality might not dawn for some until it's too late.

Irish Independent

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