LONDON - (Labour Buzz) Mr Johnson’s Brexit proposals were in tatters on Tuesday as the government accepted there was virtually no prospect of securing a deal to leave the EU before October 31. In a massive blow to the authority of the Prime Minister, successive EU leaders rejected his proposals.
Speaking with heads of EU governments on Tuesday, including Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the mood became bleak as the day progressed. Even loyal Cabinet Ministers were concerned about the tactics and capability of the Prime Minister.
Donald Tusk tweeted Boris Johnson directly, “What’s at stake is not winning some stupid blame game. At stake is the future of Europe and the UK as well as the security and interests of our people. You don’t want a deal, you don’t want an extension, you don’t want to revoke. Quo vadis?”
The European Commission President echoed these concerns, stating, “I do not accept this ‘blame game’ of pinning the eventual failure of the negotiations on the EU. If that’s the case, the explanation is actually in the British camp,”
Boris Johnson’s proposals were rejected. Berlin has insisted that Northern Ireland should remain in the customs union. A government spokesperson said that a Brexit deal is “essentially impossible.” Even without this proposal, Brexiteers are said to be privately furious that Boris Johnson appears to be reheating Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement.
The view in Brussels is that an extension is now very likely, possibly extending to summer 2020. Tory Brexit backbenchers are said to be furious with the Prime Minister and Cabinet members have been briefing against the government.
The UK’s chief negotiator, David Frost, suggested that the negotiations have stopped, but he is still trying to develop a settlement in Brussels. “At some point, we were going to hit this rock on both sides on the customs issue. If it’s the EU position that Northern Ireland has to be in the customs union, and that does appear to be the case, that’s not acceptable to us. Our position is that we need to come out and that seems to be where we are stuck.”
Brexiteers regard many parts of the Withdrawal Agreement as unacceptable. But the key issue is the customs arrangements on the island of Ireland. Both sides are determined to respect the Good Friday Agreement and the British government has insisted that no hard border will be erected.
The Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan and Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith are said to have challenged Johnson in a heated Cabinet meeting. Smith in particular is said to be furious with the announcement from Number 10 that security cooperation could be withheld from EU countries supporting a Brexit delay. Taking to Twitter he said, “I am clear that any threat on withdrawing security cooperation with Ireland is unacceptable. This is not in the interest of Northern Ireland or the Union.”
Boris Johnson insisted that every member of the Cabinet agree to his deal of pursuing no-deal if a settlement could not be reached with Brussels. Some cabinet ministers are privately concerned that Johnson and his aides are planning to ignore the so-called Benn Act, essentially breaking the law .
The Prime Minister continues to insist that Britain will leave the European Union on October 31 with or without a deal. A special session of Parliament will take place on Saturday 19 October. This is the date a deal must be secured or failing that an extension sought from Brussels.
(Written by Brendan Chilton, edited by Sam Gallagher)