It is now only a question of “when and how” – not “if” – Boris Johnson will step down as British Prime Minister.
ask formally in Dublin and Brussels and you will get the blanket answer that you should never comment on another country’s domestic politics. But planning for “a post-Johnson world” has been underway for some time, with hopes that the man would disappear sooner rather than later.
Mr Johnson’s departure will reignite hopes of a workable compromise to resolve the dreadful Brexit core. From today’s perspective, the current gridlock between the EU and the UK threatens everything from a trade war costing Irish jobs, to restricting Ireland’s access to the EU’s single market with 450 million people once again at risk of Irish jobs, to the prospect to a return of the border in Ireland, which could even endanger Irish lives again.
Since Boris Johnson responded to his threats on May 10th to unilaterally end Northern Ireland’s special post-Brexit trade status, the EU side has written off any real negotiations with London. Over the past two weeks, two key figures in the know on these matters have openly said that “no progress can be made” in resolving the Brexit dispute as long as Boris Johnson remains on the political ropes as Prime Minister.
Former Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, and former British Prime Minister’s Chief Advisor, Tony Blair, spoke about this Brexit row and how it is affecting the fragile peace in the North. Each of them played a key role in the implementation of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement and both have been watching events closely since British voters voted to leave the EU in June 2016.
Mr Ahern, Taoiseach from 1997 to 2008, told the Dublin-based International Institute of European Affairs he understood Unionists’ fears that their British identities would be challenged by controls on goods coming north from Britain. However, he suggested that while Unionists’ fears could be allayed, that might not be enough.
“Your concerns are not insurmountable and in some cases not unreasonable,” he said. But he added that “as long as Boris Johnson remained in political trouble”, this unionist change of heart would probably not be enough.
Mr Ahern said Boris Johnson was “smart and smart” and had demonstrated the ability to succeed in his career. “But as a negotiator, I don’t think he has any interest in negotiations,” the former Taoiseach added.
Jonathan Powell went a step further in a very interesting contribution to a hearing before an Oireachtas committee.
Mr Powell said the biggest problem with the current gridlock is the “lack of confidence”. He said the EU has so far been flexible in finding compromises and may need to show more flexibility in what is possible in real negotiations.
He said he doesn’t believe trust and meaningful negotiations between the UK and the EU are possible as long as Mr Johnson remains Prime Minister.
“I may be wrong about that – but I don’t really think so,” Mr Powell said, adding that he hoped Mr Johnson would finish the job soon. “The truth about what is happening with the Northern Ireland Protocol has very little to do with Northern Ireland and a lot to do with the British Conservative Party,” he added.
“I know it sounds pretty hopeless to say, ‘Wait for a new prime minister.’ But as I hope that will happen soon, I would be preparing for the post-Boris Johnson negotiations on behalf of the Irish Government and the European Commission,” Powell said.
Mr Powell said he thinks a new Conservative leader – himself a hard-line Brexiteer who panders to anti-EU Tories – could well return to meaningful talks to reach a Brexit compromise. “That’s my hope and my belief – but I could be wrong,” he said.
This way of thinking is widespread across the EU. The reality is that the backlog of Covid-19 and the aftermath of the war in Ukraine have masked the brutal reality that Brexit is currently wreaking serious economic damage in the UK.
A course towards a trade dispute with Britain’s largest and closest trading partner is not in Britain’s interest. A new face at the helm of London’s government offers scope to restore trust between the EU and the UK, leading to meaningful negotiations for a genuine compromise on Northern Ireland and other issues.
None of this will be easy – and absolutely nothing is to be taken for granted. But Boris Johnson’s departure from the Prime Minister’s office would be a very good start, offering new hope for Brexit and Northern Ireland.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/politics/boris-johnson-is-at-the-exit-gate-here-is-what-it-means-for-ireland-north-and-south-41818744.html Boris Johnson stands at the exit gate – that’s what it means for Ireland north and south