Boris thinks Widdecombe and Non-payment will sway EU his way….

In his BBC interview by Laura Kuensberg (interview text here), Tory leadership contender Boris Johnson said he had a far better chance of realising an agreed Brexit than May had, because the political situation both in Britain and on the Continent, in Brussels, has been fundamentally transformed since the March 2019 Brexit Deadline (and the British European elections).

Johnson says that the EU leaders are scared because the newly elected Brexit Party – and Tory MEPs – are a new, powerful Eurosceptic force, putting pressure on the European Commission and Council from within the Euro Parliament (EP). I think Johnson’s argument is that now that Ann Widdecombe sits beside known Euro-haters like Farage and Daniel Hannan, EU leaders have started quaking in their shoes and want to lose (or “liberate”) these MEPs soon by agreeing any October 31 Brexit, with or without a deal.

Johnson forgets Brussels has seen off worse anti-system politician threats, like J.-M. le Pen MEP calling Sobibor’s gas chambers a “detail in history”; and prime ministers like Berlusconi suggesting a German Socialist playing KZ Lager guard; or Orban, expelled from the biggest EP party for infringing basic EU principles. Adding Widdecombe isn’t a threat; the Christian and Social Democrats simply include “Renew Europe” Liberals (with new LibDem MEPs!) and the Greens in EP politics; Orban, Tories and Brexiters (who insist the EU is a Gulag Soviet Union) are kept shouting outside.

Johnson’s second point: he’ll use “creative ambiguity” about paying the £39 billion alimony to pressure the EU into a “May deal without nasty Backstop bits” (my paraphrase of his sketched deal). But what if Brussels uses “creative conditionality” about refurbishing the deal: “if you won’t pay the first instalment on the £39 billion, we keep the Backstop in”. And giving EU citizens (many who couldn’t vote for the EP, the hostile environment persists) legislative security as UK inhabitants was already offered by May, so won’t elicit EU leniency around any Brexit Deal.

Pienaar’s Panorama documentary and BBC piece (June 24th) had powerful testimony that Tory MPs would vote down any government trying to do a No Deal Brexit; and an EU law expert Dr. Kerr said both Johnson’s and Hunt’s Brexit “big plans” are unicornish piffle; neither fit with EU laws/procedures. The EU is bound to resist both.

Johnson admitted to Kuensberg he needs the EU withdrawal agreement to postpone the negotiation/implementation of any backstop-less border agreement. Brussels is always willing to open a gaping smuggling hole in its Common Market perimeter – not!; Trump’s USA is offering the same to a post-Brexit Britain – not on your life!

Johnson claims Tory and Labour MPs will agree to a No Deal Brexit fearing electoral elimination if Britain is still in the EU on November 1st. Even if they reach November 2nd unscathed, the economic, societal, health and security (European Arrest Warrant) disruptive reality of No Deal will assure they’ll be deselected shortly after by their constituency voters (like the Brecon & Radnorshire Tory MP). The NHS, academic, City and other high-expertise centres in the UK (and agriculture) will haemorrhage hundreds more EU citizen/employees once Boris or Jeremy launch their miraculous plans from Downing Street.

* Bernard Aris is a Dutch historian (university of Leiden), and Documentation assistant to the D66 parliamentary Party. He is a member of the Brussels/EU branch of the LibDems.

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8 Comments

  • Bernard Aris 26th Jun '19 - 1:35pm

    The BBC Europe Correspondent Katya Adler gives British viewers the same message as my piece above:
    *) The EU is not at all disturbed or panicky, getting week-kneed about any “No Deal Brexit” threat by any Brexiteer, especially not those by cherry-picking Boris “have my cake and eat it” Johnson. see https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-48767118 .

    So why not drop the “wild dishevelled hair Urang Utang Macho” negotiating posture (in which only the well off, otherworldly elite believe that consist of the Tory party membership) and talk facts, face hard realities?

  • Dilettante Eye 26th Jun '19 - 2:24pm

    Bernard

    I just don’t think you understand the sheer tenacity of the British resolve.
    What started as a weights and measures challenge in Sunderland, turned into the ‘Metric Martyr .5’. The British refusal to swap pints for litres, and lbs for kilogrammes turned into a 20 year battle with the EU.
    Those 5 original ‘challengers’ took the hit of convictions, but in 2008 the EU backed down and accepted that Britain would never be ‘Metric only’.
    So to recap, the EU were defeated by 5 (crowd funded) British challengers.

    So how do you think the EU will fare, when faced with (up to) 14.7 million British challenges to put their UK democracy back into the unelected EU box?
    The EU isn’t even a ‘thing’, compared to what the British are ready to unleash on it, if it tries to get diffucult over our exit?
    And that is a cast iron promise.

  • It’s been the Brexiteer position from the outset that the UK was in an extremely strong position vs. the EU27. Arguments in support of this included that the UK was such a HUGE export market for them that the likes of German carmakers would tell Merkel to tell other EU27 leaders to give the UK whatever deal we wanted and Brexit would be a breeze.

    Well, it hasn’t quite turned out like that. If the German carmakers did, in fact, privately pressure Merkel she must have resisted that pressure as I’ve not heard any hint of that – or did I miss something? Yet, I was told, yet again, only a few days ago that this will all still happen in the next few weeks. I’m not holding my breath.

    The initial UK objective (i.e. before any talks started) was to agree a UK-EU27 Free Trade deal then move on to discussing the Withdrawal Agreement. Again, it hasn’t quite turned out like that. David Davis, ultra-Brexiteer and then Brexit Secretary, caved on the order of talks in the very first morning.

    In short, the EU27 hold all the picture cards in this game but the UK side hasn’t understood that. That’s perhaps not so surprising; it is, after all, the likes of Grayling, Duncan-Smith, Gove, Johnson etc, none of them exactly famous for good judgement or solid policy delivery, who are the leading lights of Brexit.

    Dilettante Eye

    I don’t see the EU being “difficult over our exit”. If that’s what we want to do, then we can do it.

    However, they are under no obligation to give us the deal we would like. Indeed, the EU27 have repeatedly made it clear that terms of trade with them will be substantially worse than they are for members which is surely exactly what anyone would expect.

    And that means Brexit will create a big new hurdle for over 50% of our exports to jump.

    For small firms that’s likely to be mountains of complex and unfamiliar paperwork that make exporting unprofitable. Larger firms can presumably handle that but have the option of simply relocating their operations.

    How that all pans out in one year or five years I don’t know but, at a guess, a foreign exchange crisis and big cuts to public spending seem likely. I don’t see how the 14.7 million votes cast in 2016 will make any difference to the EU27 at that point.

  • Bernard,
    The bluster of dilettante is to be expected from a clueless Brexiteer. He feels he is special and the world will bow at his feet. Drunk on exceptionalism and stupidity he will happily bluster till the bill comes due, at which point we will be sans dilettante, the cost will be too high, the responsibility to much, he will be off faster than Usain Bolt. Till then bluster and no facts is his staple whine. I’m sure you have similar sad sacks in the Netherlands, lucky for you they are not in a position of power.

  • Bernard Aris 26th Jun '19 - 8:36pm

    @ Dillettante eye. Part 1

    I’m getting fed up hearing about those 17,4 million Brexit voters. Those voters and both May governments I & II went on to TOTALLY ignore the slightly less (around 16,8 million or thereabouts) compatriot voters and their wishes for the past 3 years. That neglect is what is now feeding the LibDem resurrection .

    And that in a country that excluded 3 million Europeans (amongst whom i guess something like 50.000 -100.000 Dutchmen and -women) who did not have a snowflakes chance in Dantes Inferno to vote in the European elections.
    In the Netherlands, most political parties joined at local level (in the local councils and governments) in efforts to point out to EU inhabitants (often neighbours, acquaintances and/or work colleagues) that they were allowed to vote, and how to go about that. That is the Dutch way of doing such things: we try to make European Elections work for everybody; and D66 is fighting for more European democracy since our foundation in 1966.

    We single-handedly took on General De Gaulle when he was at the top of his power over France (and was blackmailing Europe; see the “Empty Chair Crisis”) to let the British in, ever since 1962.

  • Bernard Aris 26th Jun '19 - 8:40pm

    @ Dillettante eye. Part 2

    And another thing: what smaller (14% of the British on average, through the centuries) nation across the Channel beat the British in 2 of the 4 wars we’ve had, including just 300 Dutchmen sailing up and down the Medway? Wikipedia calls that “one of the worst {defeats} suffered by the British military”, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raid_on_the_Medway .

    Has England ever had a 80 years liberation war against a world empire: territories in the Pyrenees, the Low Countries and Italy; Portugal and its empire its vassal (1580-1640); colonies in the Americas, on both African coasts, along the South Asian coast, in the Moluccas and the Philippines ? If you read Professor Jonathan Israëls book “The Dutch Republic”, you will see that fight was to preserve Dutch ways of doing things like religious toleration, “Polder” consensus-seeking “in place of Strife” (a Labour quote) at every occasion; etcetera.
    Talk about a tenacious, national fighting spirit. If the UK is out to get us or the EU, we are ready; but als “poldering Dutch” we prefer talking without unicorn myths getting thrown in.

  • Bernard Aris 26th Jun '19 - 9:10pm

    And a third thing.

    Is the British judicial system so that the “little guy”, who wants some ordinance or official rulebook changed, not only can go talk to his/her MP and petition the government, but can also go through judicial procedures to get that done?

    Your own exaple of the five “Non-Metric”, anti-Napoleontic Musketeers shows that the EU has that possibility; the little guy can win! Why not preserve that certainty, along with a host of protective Healh & SAfety, healt service, public order, travel, work permission, and civil rights (in genetral) and rules by staying in and continue fighting to reform the EU? The little man is better served by staying in than by the public school-elite (Hunt or Johnson, Rees-Mogg; Farage) dragging him out with unicornish pie in the sky promises never meant to be kept.

  • @Dilettante Eye
    “I just don’t think you understand the sheer tenacity of the British resolve.
    What started as a weights and measures challenge in Sunderland, turned into the ‘Metric Martyr .5’. The British refusal to swap pints for litres, and lbs for kilogrammes turned into a 20 year battle with the EU.”

    The weights and measures battle was wholly down to Westminster not doing its job and making imperial weights and measures official… I therefore think you don’t appreciate just how easy many in the UK have been mislead into believing a falsehood…

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