By seeking to ‘blame Brussels’, Boris Johnson’s Government risks damaging important diplomatic relations with Europe as well as the economy.
Whatever you might think of Theresa May, it is fair to say she tried to get a Brexit deal. Her Withdrawal Agreement was the culmination of tortuous negotiations with Brussels and even when it suffered a record-breaking defeat in the Commons, she battled on in vain for months.
Boris Johnson, on the other hand, now appears to have given up on his hurriedly prepared plan a few days after presenting it to the EU, with a Number Ten source saying a deal seemed “essentially impossible”.
Why? The source insisted it was all Angela Merkel’s fault. In a call with Johnson, the German Chancellor laid down a series of unacceptable new demands and also “made clear that they are willing to torpedo the Good Friday agreement”. Or she did if you believe the source and many did not.
There was “no new German position”, a leading German politician and Merkel ally stressed.
However Nigel Farage was quick to accept the source’s version, saying no UK Government could accept the supposed terms. “The choice now is clear: A clean break Brexit, or stay in a new militarised empire,” he added.
If you think a fair description of the EU is a “militarised empire”, perhaps you will believe the source’s account of the Johnson-Merkel conversation.
The other theory, floated well in advance of Johnson’s plan, is that he was never really serious about negotiating a deal and it was all just an attempt to avoid blame for a no-deal Brexit.
Of course, you only blame people for something that is bad. And a host of economists has lined up to warn that the consequences for the UK, European and global economies of a no-deal Brexit will be bad, possibly even as bad as the 2008 recession.
And yet the UK Government’s strategy seems designed not to avoid the job losses, medicine shortages and associated chaos, but merely to ‘blame Brussels’ – a strategy brought to you by the same people behind the bogus “£350 million a week” claim splashed on the side of that infamous Brexit bus.
With the opposition in disarray, the UK is blundering towards the cliff edge.
But Johnson appears to want a no-deal Brexit that is worse than it needs to be. For added to the economic fallout will be damage to diplomatic relations with our nearest neighbours.
So who will be Brexit Britain’s new friends? Trump’s America, Putin’s Russia and Xi’s China?
If you want nominations for a “militarised empire”, just ask the democrats of Hong Kong.