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Boris has destroyed what is left of UK's credibility
British government has broken its own solemn legal and political commitments
When Boris Johnson described his long-awaited proposals for changes to the Brexit withdrawal treaty as a compromise, he was not wrong. Two questions arise, however. What is being compromised? And who is Johnson compromising with?

The answer to the second is obvious: the proposals are a compromise, not with the EU, but with the DUP. And what is being compromised is the credibility of the UK as a partner in any international negotiations.

Though the EU and the Irish government are too polite to say so directly, Johnson's plan destroys any remaining sense that the current regime in London is capable of sticking even to its own self-declared principles.

Ever since its victory in the referendum of June 2016, the Brexit project has been dogged by its inability to transcend its own origins. The referendum was always driven by the internal politics of the Conservative Party.

Its purpose, from the point of view of the man who called it, David Cameron, was to silence the increasingly turbulent anti-EU faction in his own party and see off the threat of Nigel Farage. And it has never been able to move on from being an internal negotiation to being an external one. The only thing that has really changed is that "internal" Tory politics came, after the 2017 election, to include the DUP.

And so here we are again. Political compromise is about two sides with different agendas meeting each other half way. It is easy to see why Johnson might be sincere in thinking he has achieved this - but only if the two sides are Johnson himself with his need to look like he is coming up with some vaguely credible alternative to the backstop and the DUP with its "blood red line" of Northern Ireland leaving the EU on exactly the same terms as the rest of the UK.

This week's proposals do indeed represent a significant shift in this internal dynamic: both Johnson and the DUP now agree that Northern Ireland may in fact leave on different terms. It may (or may not) stay effectively within the EU single market for an indefinite number of four-year periods.

To that extent, we do not have to assume that Johnson is lying and that his proposals exist only to provoke the EU to reject them. We just have to assume that he is, like Cameron and Theresa May before him, so consumed with the internal politics of Brexit that he finds it impossible to think realistically about the real negotiations.

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by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Oct 3rd, 2019 at 10:20:58 PM EST

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