Wednesday 21 August 2019

Editorial: 'Red herrings won't save Boris from no-deal impact'

Boris Johnson. Photo: Andrew Yates/Reuters
Boris Johnson. Photo: Andrew Yates/Reuters


When a would-be prime minister relies upon the brandishing of a red herring to make a point, codology can not be far behind.

Boris Johnson is partial to stunts. They are pivotal to building a grand illusion, as any conjuror will tell you.

From the now infamous battle bus and the bogus promise to save £350m a week, to his latest kipper prank; he has built his Brexit case on make-believe.

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The man who will soon occupy No 10 Downing Street has enjoyed many good days recently, yesterday was not one of them.

First, there was the indignity of having his claims about Brussels' meddling being to blame for the cost of fish blown out of the water.

He had lambasted unnecessary EU regulation, until an EU Commission spokeswoman unhelpfully pointed out the offending regulation was actually the remit of his own government.

The real slap-down was still to come.

It came in the form of a revolt in the Commons.

Almost 50 MPs rebelled against the government in preventing the next prime minister proroguing parliament to force through a no-deal Brexit.

The group included 17 Conservative MPs.

It's significant in that it could stop the next prime minister suspending parliament to facilitate a UK crash-out.

It passed by an unexpectedly high margin of 41 votes. It will be interpreted as a pre-emptive strike against Mr Johnson's authority.

Watching the glacial progress of Brexit in the last three years, many have been in awe at the passivity and inexplicable insouciance of swathes of the political establishment - and much of the UK media - at the calamitous impact a no-deal scenario would have.

It is to be hoped the rebuff signals a stirring in responsible politicians to shake off their torpor, and resist a crash-out with all the strength they can summon.

Speaking on RTÉ yesterday, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar spoke of an early meeting and "meaningful engagement" with the next British prime minister.

It has been a long time since the words meaning, or engagement, were used in the same sentence as Brexit.

Mr Varadkar has also said he is willing to listen to new proposals from the new prime minister and compromise, so long as the same objectives are achieved.

It is time for those still hoping that Mr Johnson will suddenly pull something from an abyss of nothing to save the day to come to their senses. Reality is a constant even if our ability to recognise is fitful.

Yesterday, once again, the EU's chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, reminded us the only way for the UK to leave is in an "orderly manner".

Otherwise it would have to "face the consequences" of a crash-out.

In such a scenario, Mr Johnson will need to produce a lot more than a dead fish from his box of tricks if forced to face the British public with the full consequences of a no-deal Brexit.

Irish Independent

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