The UK’s international reputation has never been lower, and its government has never been so utterly discreditedby Jonathan Lis / October 9, 2019 / Leave a comment
If the diplomatic gloves were ever really on, it is safe to say they have now been wrenched off. In an extraordinary week, Downing Street has issued a briefing explicitly threatening our closest allies with punishment, the prime minister has advertised the fact he intends to break the law, No 10 has attacked and smeared Angela Merkel, and European Council president Donald Tusk has openly berated Boris Johnson for playing games at the expense of his people’s livelihoods and security—and it’s still only Wednesday.
The briefing released on Monday night to the Spectator’s James Forsyth had all the hallmarks of the PM’s chief adviser, Dominic Cummings. It discussed the very normal ambition to explicitly thwart the will of parliament by not requesting a Brexit delay; almost hilariously declared that any EU member state which declined to throw us off the cliff would go to the “bottom of the queue” for cooperation; and implicitly warned that the UK would destabilise or sabotage the EU’s routine operation. It was an unprecedented outburst from a government which knows it has been cornered and outwitted. Tusk’s subsequent rebuke to Johnson that “what’s at stake is not winning some stupid blame game” revealed a near-reciprocal, if rather more justified, level of hostility from the Brussels camp. But it is also a side show. The language is not the key here. It is the change in strategy.
Put simply, the EU has abandoned its indulgence of the UK’s delusions. The Council, Commission and member states are publicly puncturing the UK’s hubris, abandoning their diplomatic politesse and issuing necessary home truths.
A key turning point came in further unattributed Downing Street briefings following Johnson’s call with Merkel on Tuesday. According to the note, Merkel had declared a deal “overwhelmingly unlikely,” remarked that Germany could leave the customs union “no problem” but the island of Ireland was a special case, and suggested Northern Ireland would not be able to leave the customs union without Dublin’s approval. The Downing Street source supplied their own gloss that the call was a “useful clarifying moment,” that a deal was “essentially impossible not just now but ever,” and for good measure added that Merkel and her colleagues were “willing to torpedo the Good Friday Agreement.”
Set aside for a moment the…