It’s Brexit Groundhog Day, with one change in the list of ‘star performers’. Otherwise: nothing has changed over there on the Continent. The usual suspects behave as we would expect, from Berlin to Brussels to Paris to Dublin.
There is one change though, which is to the mood of the public here in the UK. Expectations were cautiously high after BoJo entered No 10 while the shenanigans of the hardcore Remainers in the HoC were watched with tired amusement, even the attempts by the ‘loyal opposition’ to topple this government. We’ve seen and heard it all before.
However, after Johnson’s letter demanding the removal of the Backstop was made public, Joe Public, in the guise of comment posters from the MSM to blogs, made clear that they smelled a big fat Remain Rat in that letter.
That big fat Remain Rat was the prospect of ‘negotiations’, meaning we could well be presented with the disastrous May WA with a few tweaks, keeping us in the Customs Union, the Single Market, and under the boots of the European Court of Justice.
The reports from Berlin can only be regarded as ‘same old same old’, accompanied by the ‘same old same old’ from Brussels and Dublin. Oh – and Paris, where in the run-up to Johnson’s visit today and even before he had met Ms Merkel, M Macron insisted on ‘give us the money’ with the gallic shrug of ‘we’re prepared for No Deal’.
Ms Merkel told Johnson to produce plans for a Backstop Removal in 30 days to which he agreed, calling this ‘a blistering pace’ (here, here, paywalled here and here.) Ms Merkel, according to these reports, told Johnson that this can be done and that negotiations would be possible afterwards:
“Boris Johnson has been given 30 days to come up with a solution to the Northern Irish backstop and forge a new Brexit deal with the European Union. Angela Merkel suggested she would be willing to ditch the controversial backstop if the UK can agree a suitable alternative by Sept 20.” (paywalled here)
“Angela Merkel suggested last night that it was still possible to avoid a no-deal Brexit, challenging Boris Johnson to come up with an alternative to the Irish backstop within 30 days. The German chancellor said that the time had come for Britain to put its proposals forward and pledged to “put our all” into solving the impasse.” (here, paywalled)
“The German Chancellor was optimistic a solution to the controversial Northern Ireland border could be found before the October 31 deadline. Mrs Merkel […] added: “If one is able to solve this conundrum, if one finds this solution, we said we would probably find it in the next two years to come but we can also maybe find it in the next 30 days to come. Then we are one step further in the right direction and we have to obviously put our all into this.” (link)
“Angela Merkel delivered a Brexit boost to Boris Johnson today as she said ditching the backstop was possible if the UK can come forward with practical and workable alternatives within the next 30 days as she also insisted Germany is ready for a No Deal split. The German Chancellor said if the UK could solve the ‘conundrum’ of the Irish border protocol then she would be willing to listen to the proposals.” (here)
Isn’t that nice! But let’s not be fooled. Read the last sentence in the quote above – carefully: Ms EU ‘would be willing to listen’ – no commitment to actually doing something, is it! Then ponder this:
“The German Chancellor’s friendly approach was part of a “good cop, bad cop” routine with Emmanuel Macron, who will meet Boris Johnson today. […] But Brussels insiders believe the German Chancellor’s offer changes very little in the negotiations, despite her signalling a willingness to work on alternative solutions to the measure designed to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland.” (link)
No change, is there! It seems The Express has better sources in Brussels than the esteemed broadsheets, so here’s more:
“EU sources, however, insist the offer she made behind closed doors to the Prime Minister would leave him far from satisfied. They signalled Ms Merkel sees the alternative solution as Britain remaining in close orbit of the customs union and single market to prevent customs checks from emerging on the border. An EU source said: “So basically nothing is new. Merkel is the good cop and Macron will be bad cop. “Boris Johnson’s team is spinning like f***.” They added: “Thirty days or next two years if political declaration is altered to seal a deal on a customs union, which is precisely the opposite of what Johnson wants.” (link)
Nothing new in the EU …! Today Johnson travels to France, to meet the wannabe Napoleon, M Macron. Paris has set the tone for that meeting yesterday, even before Johnson had met Ms Merkel:
“A source in the French President’s office on Wednesday said a no-deal Brexit was being treated as the most likely scenario. On Wednesday night Mr Macron told reporters that renegotiating the UK’s exit was “not an option”. He also warned a post-Brexit trade deal with the US would represent a “historic vassalisation” for the UK.” (paywalled here).
The veiled but fundamental anti-American stance of the French is shown perfectly in that last sentence. M Macron apparently believes that “vassalisation” – what a lovely new word! That’s Frenchification, that is! – to the EU through May’s WA is perfectly fine while “vassalisation” through trade agreements with the USA is not.
Given the recent EU trade agreements with Japan and the Mercosur South American states, one would like to know if, for example, Mr Abe, PM of Japan, is now regarding Japan as being “vassalisationised” (I can ‘do’ new words as well!) to the EU.
So: Brexit Groundhog Day, where Macron demands that we pay those £39bn, deal – no deal: no matter (link); where Peter Bone MP reiterates that we owe the EU not a penny (here) and where the Irish refuse to even talk about the Backstop, aided and abetted by EU ‘diplomats’ who also won’t talk about deals or no deals (link).
We remember that there have been many perfectly valid proposals for managing the NI-Eire border which have all been rejected by the EU. We can be certain that EU intransigence won’t change in the next 30 days just because BoJo is BoJo.
We also remember that it was the policy of Brussels and M Barnier and indeed of France and Germany to demand the previous PM ‘do her homework’ and submit proposals which were then rejected out of hand. Not that she minded …
We finally remember that the EU and Ms Merkel especially have vested interests in seeing the previous PM’s “deal” be fully implemented because they themselves set it up, with the help of certain Whitehall Mandarins whose names suddenly escape me …
So: Brexit Groundhog Day – nothing has changed except the face of the performer for the UK. Even Mr Corbyn’s latest attempt to form a ‘coalition of the willing Remainers’ in the HoC (paywalled here and here) is nothing but yet another repeat of a repeat performance.
So: Brexit Groundhog Day – perfectly demonstrating the truth of the saying that those who do not learn from History will be forced to repeat it. Has Johnson still not learned that there’s no negotiating with the stonewall that is the EU? Why should we believe that his ‘deal’ will be different from that abject surrender, the May WA, the appeasement paper reminiscent of Neville Chamberlain?
So: Brexit Groundhog Day for us – because for three years we’ve watched this Brexit shambles created by our government and Brussels. In good old Groundhog Day manner we will
Photo by ImAges ImprObables