It is said that Greek legend Archimedes of Syracuse stepped into a bath and discovered a principle – the buoyant force on an object submerged in a fluid is equal to the weight of the fluid that is displaced by that object. More than 2000 years later, the DUP leader Arlene Foster has just discovered a new principle – submerging the Irish border into oblivion just makes it reappear somewhere else.
It is quite astonishing that people haven’t quite fathomed the fact that in order for the UK to leave the EU, there has to be some sort of Irish border and that for goods destined for the EU, Northern Ireland must remain in the EU customs union and single market or at least align itself on European regulations. Is that so hard to understand?
I just loved Michael Gove telling the media how good Boris Johnson’s deal was. For the Brexit guru, the deal was very different to the one Theresa May thrashed out because the backstop had moved from the land to the sea and, 4 years after the end of the transition period, the DUP could actually decide quite freely whether it wanted Northern Ireland to remain trapped in “Backstop 2.0” or disregard EU alignment altogether and accept a hard border.
In accepting a revised withdrawal agreement, Boris Johnson has accepted that there must be custom checks for Northern Ireland. Under the new agreement, the Northern Ireland backstop that was never to be implemented, will be permanently applied, albeit in a modified version. This represents a major concession on behalf of the UK. In comparison, the EU’s concession comprises solely the re-opening of negotiations – something they had always said that they wouldn’t do. In addition, the present agreement is a carbon copy of a previous draft that Boris Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, had rejected. The EU has, in fact, conceded nothing.
Even the political declaration that was supposed to leave the UK with a free trade for Europe and anything she wants for the rest of the world, has tied the UK’s hands into complying with EU norms and regulations. If the UK wants a generous free trade agreement with the EU, London will have to respect European policies on unfair trade competition, the environment, workers’ rights, and fiscal cooperation.
For Charles de Gaulle, the UK’s attitude towards the 6 founding members of the European Economic Community – the EU’s granny – was nothing short of dramatic. A drama in 5 acts that was impossible to follow due to the erratic and illogical behaviour of its main protagonist. From refusing to participate in the founding Treaty of Rome in Act I, Act II saw the UK denouncing preferential EEC tariffs, trying to impose its own conditions for membership in Act III, favouring the Commonwealth over the EEC in Act IV, only to unconditionally “surrender” to EEC membership demands by Act V.
Why would you want to negotiate clauses if you have completely accepted them in advance? – Charles de Gaulle
This is not the end of the divorce saga, though. The unfaithful husband has not yet left the house and is sleeping in the attic instead of the bedroom. As in all divorces, it is the children who will pay the price of a divorce they are not responsible for and have no say in.
Because of the Irish border, the Brexit agreement is likely to be rejected by the House of Commons. Most punters predict that Boris Johnson will not get his surprise deal through. But then again, the punters also said that the UK would vote for staying in the EU on that fateful day back in 2016.
Win or lose, Boris Johnson will still come out as the victor. If he wins the vote, he will be remembered in the history books as the prime minister who delivered Brexit. If he loses, the UK will probably only be granted an extension by the EU if the deal can be accepted at a later date – after en general election, for example. Polls show Boris Johnson to be comfortably ahead of his rivals. If so, his strategy will also have obeyed a principle similar to the one discovered by Arlene Foster – what the children of tomorrow will lose in freedom and protection, Boris Johnson will gain today in political power. Because, frankly speaking, this is what Brexit is all about, isn’t it – personal ambitions and political power.