Mr Johnson, who has been an outspoken critic of the British Government’s Chequers proposal, stressed that throughout the Brexit negotiations, the UK has been playing all too fair:
“With painful politeness, we have agreed to the EU’s timetable for discussions. We have consented to hand over huge quantities of taxpayers’ money – £39bn of it. We have quite properly volunteered to protect the rights of EU nationals in the UK. So far we have nothing to show for our generosity and understanding.”
The former Foreign Secretary went on to accuse the EU of being “like some chess player triumphantly forking our king and our queen, the EU Commission is offering the UK government what appears to be a binary choice.”
The binary choice he refers to is that between “separation and submission”. That is either bending to the will of the EU or break up its own union by creating a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Have Brexit or have a United Kingdom. The choice Mr Johnson argued, is nothing short of abject humiliation and must be rejected.
This choice, Mr Johnson argued, would result in the “economic annexation” of Northern Ireland:
“We would be treating Northern Irish MPs as somehow second class legislators, deprived now and forever of any say in many of the laws operational in their own constituencies. Even if the rest of the UK were able to do free trade deals, Northern Ireland would not be able to take part.”
He said that the decision to agree to a “backstop” option at the Northern Irish border in December last year was a serious mistake of the British Government, as it has now become a means to “frustrating Brexit”.
Furthermore, Mr Johnson went on to critique the Chequers proposal by saying it makes a “mockery of the project”:
“It seems that in the last few days UK negotiators have agreed that we will remain in the “customs territory” of the EU, an even stronger commitment than remaining in the customs union. It means that for trading purposes the UK is simply conceived of as part of EU territory, as though it were a departement of France. We will be outside the EU but run by the EU, in the sense that from next year we will, of course, have no one in the Commission directorate of external trade, no influence over tariffs, and no ability to decide what trade and commercial policies will be pursued IN OUR OWN COUNTRY.”
Such a decision, he said, will only mean that our ability to go out to the world and forge free trade deals will no longer be an option. But even more embarrassing, Mr Johnson argued, will be the fact that the EU may be able to use its access to the British economy as a bargaining chip in future negotiations with other countries, which has potential to damage the British economy.
This means, he said, that far from minimising risk, Britain is actually increasing its risk by following the current plan:
“This is not the “pragmatic” solution; this is not minimising risk. Take this together with the “common rulebook” – exposing the entirety of UK business, including the vast majority that does not export to the EU – to the uncontrolled torrent of EU regulation, and you have a recipe for subordination that seriously threatens the economic health of this country.”
He urged the British Government to follow a different path and remove the backstop option. All sides already agree he said, that there shouldn’t be physical borders between Ireland and Northern Ireland, so there must now be a solution that works for all sides.
He concluded by saying that:
“There is a better solution, and one that the Commission has long since expected. We still have ample time to make it work, not least since our partners would vastly prefer it to WTO terms. It is the Super Canada, zero tariff, zero quota, free trade deal at the heart of a deep and special partnership. It is right for both sides, and it is time to go for it.”