It feels as if the media has talked and written about nothing else apart from a no deal Brexit all summer. The coverage leaves me asking the question, is the media unwittingly making this outcome more likely and the public more receptive to a no deal Brexit? Is there a fatalism and inevitability creeping in since Boris Johnson, arch Brexiteer and Leave Campaign stalwart, took office?
Clearly there continue to be daily warnings from economists about the impact of a no deal Brexit on the pound. Sterling is tumbling in the markets and may soon be valued at the same price as the dollar. Philip Hammond quotes an OBR forecast of a recession if Britain crashes out of the EU without a deal. Mr Hammond is concerned about Sterling and concerned about the impact on public services. He resigned from the government in protest when Mr Johnson became PM.
I think the best journalists should be poring over the withdrawal agreement terms and seeking to help Mr Johnson find the substance of a deal that will be acceptable to Europe. Mr Johnson says repeatedly that the Irish backstop must be abolished all together to allow Britain to support a deal. EU leaders do not want to do this because they need to protect the position of the Republic of Ireland within the EU.
Sinn Fein is calling for a united Ireland. The long-standing alliance between DUP and the Conservatives makes these negotiations very difficult. Mr Johnson says he is impartial, but is he? It seems he really wants Brexit for England and Northern Ireland and would rather throw off the thorn that is the Republic of Ireland and ignore the dissent in Scotland.
Mr Johnson needs to be build consensus across the union but does he have the will and commitment to do it and the vision to find a deal that is acceptable to everyone? Will he enlist the help of Ruth Davidson and will he negotiate with Sinn Fein?
Sinn Fein are talking about holding another referendum in Ireland in an attempt to win independence and reunite Ireland. There is provision for this in the Good Friday Agreement. As PM, Mr Johnson should look beyond the interests of Brexiteers to find a solution that satisfies all the far flung corners of the union. Brexit is threatening to break up the union. Mr Johnson’s position as Prime Minister and legacy will be secure if he can find a solution that Parliament will pass.
In order to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland, the backstop would keep Northern Ireland aligned with the EU single market. This means that goods coming into Northern Ireland from elsewhere in the UK would need to be checked to see if they meet EU standards.
It would also involve a temporary single custom territory, effectively keeping the whole of the UK in the EU customs union.
These arrangements would apply unless and until both the EU and UK agree they are no longer necessary.
Attorney General, Geoffrey Cox, concluded that “the legal risk remains unchanged” that if a post-Brexit trade agreement cannot be reached due to genuinely “intractable differences”, the UK would have “no internationally lawful means” of leaving the backstop without EU agreement.
This temporary “backstop” is meant to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland only kicking in if alternative customs arrangements can’t be negotiated and implemented in time for the end of the transition period in December 2020.
The EU’s version would see Northern Ireland stay in the EU customs union, meaning a customs border in the Irish Sea.