Saturday 19 October 2019

Editorial: 'No glory in being champion of a game with no winners'

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photo: PA
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photo: PA


If Brexit was a place, it would be a black hole with the power to distort perception, time and space all at once, an inescapable twilight zone where we are trapped by "non-papers", "non-starters" and nonsense.

Boris Johnson says he will soon unveil a "good solution" to break the deadlock on Brexit.

We have supposedly come to the moment when the "rubber hits the road" as the clock ticks down to October 31.

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There's good reason why Mr Johnson's words made no impression on the deepening gloom on Brexit. RTÉ had leaked revelations Mr Johnson's team had devised an ingenious plan that centred on providing us with not one, but two borders.

He later sought to distance himself from the proposals, even though they were dated as recently as last month. In the process of doing so, he dug himself into an even deeper crater.

The earlier-revealed secret proposals presented to Brussels had suggested building vast "customs processing centres" along the Border as a replacement for the backstop.

Mr Johnson rubbished this. He nevertheless went on to insist the "reality" of Brexit is there will need to be customs checks on the island of Ireland.

It is now nigh on impossible to imagine a deal can be agreed upon if it is to be based on this assertion. We are finally beginning to see where we stand in the reckoning of Mr Johnson.

The prime minister and his advisers are no longer sugar-coating the fact unquantifiable disruption of the all-Ireland economy is inevitable.

Judging by the lack of engagement it is difficult to discern any interest in cushioning the impact.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar attempted to put a brave face on matters, claiming: "I very much welcome Boris Johnson's words when he disowned the non-papers, had he not, in my view, it would be hard evidence of bad faith by the UK government."

But Mr Johnson has not resiled from the substance of what the "non-papers" propose. He has just changed the terminology.

Any controls on the Border are a significant step away from the promise made in December 2017 of "no related checks" anywhere on the island of Ireland.

As of now, Mr Johnson's energies are clearly focussed on winning an election.

This necessitates more delays and a deliberate distraction. Mr Johnson will cast himself as the people's tribune, if he can also paint it as a 'parliament against the voters' contest - while pointing to the bullies in Brussels for boxing him in - so much the better.

Friedrich Nietzsche said: "The most perfidious way of harming a cause consists of defending it deliberately with faulty arguments." And on it goes.

Syllable by syllable, Brexit has slipped its political moorings. It is now a dangerous contest centred on pushing and accusing, always avoiding the blowback of blame. But all games end.

The tragedy of this one is the scoreboards seem destined to show all sides have lost.

There is little glory in being champion of a game with no winners.

Irish Independent

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