Unionists fear Brexit backlash as Boris meets Leo
Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Arlene Foster flew to London on Tuesday demanding to meet Boris Johnson amid growing Unionist fears that the British prime minister will cut Northern Ireland loose in his desperation for a Brexit deal.
Foster demanded the meeting following a softening of Johnson’s stance during his talks with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in Dublin on Monday.
He hinted at a rewriting of the protocol on the Irish backstop, which is designed to avoid the return of border posts or checks.
Johnson has already backed an all-Ireland arrangement for food and agriculture, widely seen as a major step in the direction of a Northern Ireland-only backstop.
The Independent in London reported that the DUP fears Johnson is poised to sidestep the central obstacle of the Irish backstop by agreeing on a backstop for Northern Ireland only – allowing Britain to escape the Customs Union and Single Market rules.
The EU agreed such a proposal two years ago before the DUP forced former Prime Minister Theresa May to stamp on it.
Foster’s flight to London came a day after Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage accused Johnson of losing bravado in the Dublin talks with Varadkar.
Johnson, who had been pledging Britain will exit the EU “deal or no deal” since he took over the British government six weeks ago, said minutes before his meeting with Varadkar that a no-deal Brexit would be a failure for the British and Irish governments.
Almost immediately Farage – whose campaign prompted the British electorate to vote to leave the EU three years ago – tweeted, “The Boris bravado has disappeared in Dublin, saying no deal would be a ‘failure of statecraft.’”
The Boris bravado has disappeared in Dublin, saying No Deal would be a “failure of statecraft”.
He is now going all out for Mrs May’s “deal”, with Northern Ireland to be hived off from the rest of the UK.
A clean break Brexit is the only way forward.— Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage) September 9, 2019
Farage accused Johnson of now going all-out for the rejected May deal “with Northern Ireland to be hived off from the rest of the U.K.”
Johnson said he believed a Brexit deal was still possible at an EU summit on October 17 and 18. His commitment contrasted sharply with Minister Amber Rudd’s explanation for leaving his Cabinet and the Tories at the weekend when she said the only preparation by Johnson was for a no-deal exit.
His commitment to a deal in Dublin at his first face-to-face meeting as prime minister with Varadkar earned him the title of liar from some among a protest group outside Government Buildings.
One of them, Marie Barry, from Co. Cork, said, “I believe Boris Johnson is using our city as a commute stop to try and convince the people across the water in England that he is trying to get them a deal. He is not. He is lying through his teeth.”
Throughout the pre-meeting press conference by the two leaders, Johnson’s rambling assurances were unconvincing while Varadkar, 15 years younger, was the more sophisticated, scoring a subtle point when he said ratifying free trade deals post-Brexit with other countries and the U.S. would be a “herculean task” for the British leader.
The taoiseach added a reminder to classics-lover Johnson, “We want to be your friend and ally, your Athena, in doing so.”
Varadkar to Johnson:
“Securing the ratification in less than there years is going to be a Herculean task for you.
But we do want to be your friend, your ally, your Athena”
When Hercules went mad and killed his children , Athena stopped the disaster from getting worse . pic.twitter.com/dS5RC0IInd— John McGahon (@John_McGahon) September 9, 2019
The Irish Examiner, which described Varadkar as the adult in the room, explained that in the classics tale when Hercules went mad and killed his children Athena stopped the disaster from getting worse by knocking him out.
In what Varadkar described as “high-stakes” talks both governments later issued a joint statement that the two leaders had a “positive and constructive” meeting in which they established a relationship and a better understanding of each other’s positions.
The statement added, “They also shared their commitment to the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement and the restoration of the power-sharing institutions in Northern Ireland.”
After the Dublin meeting, Johnson returned to a state of political chaos in Britain where the Westminster Parliament was suspended for five weeks in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
The suspension, or proroguing, was accompanied by threats from some opposition politicians that Johnson could be impeached if he ignores a new law passed within the last few days designed to rule out a no-deal Brexit on October 31.
Opposition MPs and Tory rebels rejected for a second time Johnson’s call for an October 15 snap election, insisting that the law blocking a no-deal Brexit must take effect first.
Johnson’s precarious hold on power is accentuated by the loss of his tiny majority after 21 rebel Tories were kicked out last week and Cabinet Minister Amber Rudd and Johnson’s brother Jo, also a minister, joined them last weekend.
More ministers are threatening resignation, but the new Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith rejected speculation that he was one of them.
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