Sunday 18 August 2019

Editorial: 'Johnson risks inflicting terrible price on North'

Boris Johnson (Dominic Lipinski/PA)
Boris Johnson (Dominic Lipinski/PA)


Was it too much to expect 15 minutes' worth of dialogue would change a doom-laden Brexit narrative? Clearly.

But at least Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Boris Johnson got a chance to talk.

The scene calls to mind a parent trying to coach an adolescent, who has just thrown an almighty strop, out of their bedroom.

Time will tell which leader had the better claim to being the responsible adult.

The British prime minister's insistence there will be no negotiations until the Withdrawal Agreement is dumped speaks for itself.

Mr Johnson pledged to approach negotiations in a spirit of friendship, but only if there were a fresh deal and the backstop abolished.

Mr Varadkar was just as firm: the backstop is a vital emergency measure to prevent a hard Border.

It was only made "necessary as a consequence" of unilateral UK decisions.

While there was no further falling out, there was no reconciliation either. Everything Mr Johnson has done since becoming PM is geared towards an early election.

It is irresponsible not to recognise Britain will pay a huge price for a no-deal crash-out.

He has vowed to follow "a do-or-die out by October 31" agenda. But even this was called into question by contradictory statements between himself and the man tasked with getting the job done, Michael Gove.

Since taking over, Mr Johnson has watched the pound fall to a two-year low as his tone hardens.

This country will also pay a terrible price for a hard Brexit, as was outlined in a sobering analysis by the Central Bank yesterday.

Far from being the fastest growing economy in the eurozone by 2020, we would become a laggard.

"This will not be a shock that is confined to a small number of sectors or regions," Central Bank director of economics Mark Cassidy noted.

A similarly stark picture was outlined in an AIB survey.

Some 44pc of small and medium businesses have cancelled investment plans due to Brexit.

Disruption at ports and airports is inevitable, as border infrastructure struggles to cope with the new customs regime. Brussels will go into shut-down mode for August, so there can be no crisis meetings. It must be hoped an outbreak of common sense is not too much to expect by then.

The 'Financial Times' noted yesterday how Britain's Institute for Government think-tank has highlighted no deal would put "unprecedented pressure" on the UK union.

It added: "The North would suffer a double blow: its economy would take a disproportionate hit because of its close integration with the Republic, while political stability would be jeopardised by an inevitable hardening of the Border."

In summary it found: "Crashing out of the EU would be more than an act of gross political irresponsibility. It would be a signal of Mr Johnson's contempt for the union." It is hard to conceive of a more damning conclusion.

Irish Independent

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