An old quip that I still find amusing: the sun never set on the British Empire because God does not trust Englishmen in the dark. Nevertheless, one hears it said that Britain has a reputation around the world for honesty, probity, and adherence to the rule of law.
But every now and then, critics say, the government does something which rides roughshod over this alleged reputation, and risks Britain becoming a pariah state. A recent example would be the Internal Market Bill, where the UK planned to override the EU withdrawal treaty under certain circumstances, thus breaking international law. In the event, the contentious parts of the bill were withdrawn after talks with our ‘European partners’, as Johnson refers to them. I’m not sure whether many ‘partners’ would wish to continue that arrangement with a state planning to renege on an agreement not many months old .
And now, the government has unilaterally extended the grace period relating to the control of goods travelling across the Irish Sea to Northern Ireland because of difficulties with the new regulations. The Europeans were not consulted; they were not even told... As a result, the EU are preparing legal action.
What are we to make of this? Undoubtedly, Europhobes will applaud the government for ‘sticking it’ to the bullying and unreasonable EU, who are, by the way, simply expecting the UK to adhere to the terms of an agreement freely entered into.
Of all things in the exit from the EU, the issue of the Irish border was always the circle that could never be squared. If there are different standards, regulations etc. on either side of an international border, the unrestricted movement of goods is not possible. So in order to preserve free movement between the North and the South of Ireland—per the Good Friday Agreement—the only solution, no matter how unpalatable, is to set the ‘border’ in the Irish Sea and perform the checks there. That was agreed and signed up to by both sides, but now the UK appears to be in denial.
The real villains of this affair, whose behaviour in my view borders on criminality, are Messrs Johnson and Gove. They and others assured us that the issue of movement of goods across the Irish border would be no problem at all, and would all be dealt with using technology. This has proved to be about as credible as the ‘easiest and quickest trade deal in history’... Johnson and his cronies were the architects of the current mess, but it is all of us who will pay for their gross stupidity and incompetence, as the reputation of this country continues to slide.
Welcome to the Mirli Books blog written by Peter Maggs