Brexit Bulletin: Get On With It

310 Days to Go

Today in Brexit: Boris Johnson sets out his demands for Brexit, and warns the new Irish backstop proposal needs to be limited in time so Britain can press on with forging its own trade policy.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson told Prime Minister Theresa May to “get on with” Brexit, setting out a list of demands for what a good divorce would look like.

In an exclusive interview with Bloomberg’s Tim Ross in Buenos Aires, Johnson said May must ensure that the U.K. takes back control over its tariff regime and gains the power to break away from European Union regulations if it chooses. If the final Brexit deal doesn’t deliver these conditions, it will fail to give the public the clean break from the bloc that it voted for, he said during a five-day tour of Latin America.

“The prime minister is the custodian of the plan, which is to come out of the customs union, out of the single market and to get on with it, to get on with that project with all convenient speed,” he said.

#lazy-img-327973326:before{padding-top:66.64999999999999%;}Boris Johnson in ArgentinaPhotographer: Pablo E. Piovano/Bloomberg

Just as negotiations in Brussels turn to the thorny question of the Irish border on Wednesday, Johnson raised questions about May’s compromise proposal, which would avoid a policed border on the island by keeping some EU rules as a last resort. The problem for Brexiters is that it could keep Britain tied to the bloc’s regulations for years after the split. May was attempting to break the deadlock over how to manage the border between the Republic of Ireland, an EU member, and Northern Ireland, which is part of the U.K.

May forced her Cabinet last week into the compromise, despite objections from Brexit-backing ministers including Johnson. It’s meant to be a backstop, an insurance clause, but Brexit supporters fear it’s a backdoor route to keeping the U.K. shackled to EU rules. If the U.K. is tied to the EU tariff regime, it can't go out and make trade deals with new countries, which Brexit campaigners promised would be a dividend of the divorce.

Johnson was clear that he doesn’t want Britain to operate under EU tariffs for a moment longer than necessary, and he called for more clarity on how long this backstop plan would last. “It’s important for people to have a sense of when it’s going to happen and to be able to do it as fast as is reasonably possible,” he said.

May is seeking to break the deadlock in talks so that progress can be made ahead of a crunch summit in June in Brussels. The EU has made threatening noises about what will happen if there’s no advancement on the Irish issue. But it’s not just the Brexiters who don’t like May’s compromise. Brussels isn’t sold on it yet either.

Johnson, who led the campaign for Brexit, has been putting pressure on May since she named him to the Cabinet she formed shortly after the June 2016 referendum. She needs him there to reassure Brexit voters that she’s delivering the divorce they were promised. If he resigned it would send a message to those voters that she’s betrayed the Brexit cause.

But will he quit if May doesn’t do what he wants? He wouldn’t say.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *