by Frank Schnittger
Tue Oct 8th, 2019 at 12:26:14 PM EST
Well that didn't last long...
Johnson allies admit deal hopes are effectively dead
British prime minister Boris Johnson's allies admitted on Tuesday that hopes of a Brexit deal at next week's EU summit were effectively dead after Mr Johnson held a bruising phone conversation with German chancellor Angela Merkel.
Sterling fell on the news, as Number 10 began a "blame game" strategy amid dark warnings that Britain would retaliate against EU member states and that talk of "sincere co-operation" with the EU was now "in the toilet".
Elsewhere, EU Council president Donald Tusk accused Mr Johnson of playing a `stupid blame game' in his dealings with the bloc. "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," Mr Tusk wrote on Twitter. "You don't want a deal, you don't want an extension, you don't want to revoke," the Council President added, before asking "quo vadis?" the Latin for "where are you going?"
After days of gathering gloom over the possibility of a Brexit breakthrough, unnamed Number 10 sources on Tuesday prepared the ground for failure, claiming that Dr Merkel and other EU leaders had not moved "a centimetre". Although Downing Street has so far declined to comment on the telephone call with Dr Merkel, Mr Johnson's allies accused the German chancellor of vetoing Britain's Brexit plan, which would see Northern Ireland leave the EU customs union.
Downing Street `source' blames Varadkar for talks breaking down
A Downing Street source has told a senior British political journalist that Brexit negotiations will probably end this week as Taoiseach Leo Varadkar "doesn't want to negotiate".
The Spectator political editor James Forsyth also quoted a source in Number 10 as saying there were "all sorts of things" the British government could do to scupper a delay. The source warned that if Mr Johnson's plan "dies" in the next few days it would not be revived.
The source said that "Varadkar was keen on talking before the Benn Act when he thought that the choice would be `new deal or no deal'. Since the Benn Act passed he has gone very cold and in the last week the official channels and the backchannels have also gone cold.
The source is quoted as saying that it will be made clear both privately and publicly that countries which oppose approving a delay to Brexit past October 31st will "go the front of the queue for future co-operation on things both within and outside EU competences", adding: "Those who support delay will go to the bottom of the queue."
Amber Rudd, who resigned from Boris Johnson's cabinet and the Conservative party last month, said she believes the Number 10 source quoted by Forsyth is the prime minister's controversial aide, Dominic Cummings.
Ms Rudd told the Today programme: "It sounds angry and desperate. And the language that is used, I do not believe should be the language of a UK government. There's a fair amount of speculation about where it came from.
"But since it hasn't been denied by Number 10, and no young woman spad [special adviser], for instance, has been marched out of Downing Street, one can only assume it's come from the centre, from the Prime Minister's adviser.
"And the style of it seems to imply that."
So the bottom line appears to be that Dominic Cummings is angry that the EU hasn't bought his marvellous "two borders for four years" plan and is blaming Varadker for not negotiating, despite the fact that Varadker is not negotiating on behalf of the EU, but has offered to meet Boris Johnson to discuss his concerns.
Other "Downing Street sources" blame Merkel, while claiming that other EU member states are less intransigent. Remarkably, Downing St. still seems to believe it can decide which EU countries it can place at the front or the back of the queue for UK largesse - ignoring the fact that the Commission negotiates for all EU countries on trade and much besides.
Meanwhile, without a trace of irony, the DUP is accusing the Irish government of a Dublin says NO mentality
Financial "sweeteners" from London to Ireland to carry out customs checks on the Border after the United Kingdom quits the European Union are of no interest to the Government, Tánaiste Simon Coveney has said.
"This is not about money or sweeteners or being paid off or anything like that," said Mr Coveney, who insisted that the Government's position is about preserving the stability of Northern Ireland.
The Government is " trying to ensure" that checkpoints, on or near the Border are avoided, and not allowed to have a "corrosive impact on relationships and politics" that have improved since the Belfast Agreement.
Mr Coveney's remarks come as the Democratic Unionist Party accused the Government of adopting a "Dublin Says No" mentality.
It seems the usual imperial strategy of paying off the local tribal headmen isn't going to work this time around. But neither will extortion:
A report in Monday's edition of the London Times claims Michael Gove's Brexit Operations Committee has compiled a list of pressure points that could be imposed on Ireland in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
These would include warning that the Republic could suffer a shortage of medicines, potential loss of fishing rights off the North of Ireland, disruption of the movement of horses between the Republic and UK and traffic back-ups at Holyhead in Wales from customs checks.
Responding to the report, Mr Coveney said there was "nothing new here for us. We've been talking about the downside of a no-deal Brexit for many, many months. If a no-deal Brexit were to happen, it'll be a lose, lose, lose for everybody - for the UK, for Ireland, for the EU. All of the pressure is in London right now and that is where it should be because it is a British prime minister who has decided to ask for a significant change to a withdrawal agreement."
He added: "All 28 governments in the EU, including the British government, signed up to [it] . He is asking for change; we are happy to facilitate that as long as we can find a way of protecting the core issues."
Perhaps Mr. Gove needs to be reminded that Ireland is the only European country with which the UK has a significant trade surplus with Irish exports of $19 Billion to the UK and imports of $23 Billion from the UK. The UK will thus lose more exports than Ireland if blockages are put in place, and in any case, Ireland needs to diversify away from the UK market because Sterling devaluation is making Irish exports to the UK increasingly uneconomic.
I have been warning since Day 1 after the UK referendum that a no deal Brexit is the most likely outcome because of the disparity in expectations between Brexiteers and the EU. Those chickens are now coming home to roost. Far from being "the easiest deal in history", it is going to prove to be the most difficult and intractable. And No Deal means economic war.
Wolfgang Münchau has argued that the EU should think twice before rejecting Boris Johnson's proposal and that the biggest problem with a no-deal Brexit is not the thing itself but who is held responsible. That is an utterly fatuous argument. The real effects of Brexit will be felt long after whoever is deemed to be at fault has passed into history.
As I write this, Paschal Donohoe, the Finance Minister, is unveiling the annual Irish budget which will be framed on the assumption of a No Deal Brexit. He is expected to provide for a 1.2 Billion no deal contingency fund to help farmers and businesses in the worst effected sectors. A projected small budget surplus will instead become a c. 1% deficit.
It is unlikely that his package of measures will be sufficient to offset the economic dislocation and loss of jobs Brexit will cause - not to mention the growing instability in the North of Ireland. But with the EU's help, Ireland will muddle through. For the UK, on the other hand, no bottom to the potential downward spiral is in sight, and blaming Boris Johnson or Varadker or the EU is going to be of little consolation.
Winning a blame game never put bread on the table, and in reality there are only losers.