If European Union leaders thought there would be any flagging or hesitation from British Prime Minister Boris Johnson when the Brexit deadline loomed, they were sadly mistaken.
“After decades of campaigning, three years of arguments and seemingly endless months of pointless delay, it is now just 25 days until the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union comes to an end. We will be packing our bags and walking out on October 31. The only question is whether Brussels cheerily waves us off with a mutually agreeable deal, or whether we will be forced to head off on our own,” he wrote.
The EU is perfectly aware of Johnson’s political troubles — both in his own party and with the opposition. But Johnson’s threat should now impress on the EU the seriousness of the situation. Part of the calculus used by the EU was always that the Brits would get cold feet and keep delaying their exit until a change in political leadership brought them back to their senses.
That’s not going to happen now. No court will grant Brexit opponents a stay. It’s too late for a referendum. Johnson is pulling out on the 31st, end of story.
European leaders have raised serious concerns about Johnson’s new proposals and said that in their current form they are unacceptable to both Brussels and Dublin — a point reiterated Saturday when Johnson spoke to several EU leaders by phone.
Johnson’s comments came hours after the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier warned it would be London’s responsibility if no deal is struck.
He told a Le Monde event in Paris on Saturday that Johnson’s proposals do not address some of the EU’s core concerns about the integrity of the single market and the future of the Good Friday Agreement for peace in Ireland.
Customs controls between Northern Ireland and Ireland are still a big sticking point, as well as Dublin’s desire to remain in the single market. A no-deal Brexit would cause massive confusion and might open fissures in the peace deal so arduously negotiated.
Johnson seems confident it will work out:
But Johnson told the readership of two popular daily newspapers: “The way I see it, the proposals published this week represent we in the UK jumping to the island in the middle of the river. If we’re to leave with a deal, we need the EU to jump over from its side and join us there, showing its own willingness to do a deal that the UK Parliament can support.”
“So I say to our European friends: grasp the opportunity our new proposal provides. Join us at the negotiating table in a spirit of compromise and co-operation,” he wrote.
It’s the 11th hour and it’s time for the EU to do a deal. Whatever misconceptions they were operating under previously must be left behind. As for their worries about “contagion” — other nations voting to leave the EU — they will have to address those concerns later. Right now, easing Great Britain out of the EU with minimal disruption to their economies must be the goal.
As for the UK, there will no doubt be great confusion, even with a Brexit deal. But if a deal is reached, it will be likely that most of the disruptions will be a matter of inconvenience and misunderstanding, and not the economic Armageddon being predicted.