Boris Johnson in his first address to the House of Commons as Prime Minister. House of Commons photo.
By Irish Echo Staff
The storm clouds are gathering, and they are doing so at all points of the political compass.
London is on a collision course with Dublin and Brussels over Brexit. Throw in Paris and Berlin as well.
London is looking to Washington for a post-Brexit bailout trade deal. Not so fast says House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
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Activist Irish America will be saying the same thing.
Speaking for the Irish government after Johnson’s opening salvo as prime minister, all two hours of it, Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Simon Coveney said that Johnson’s approach to Brexit was “very unhelpful” and would not lead to an agreement.
Johnson told parliament on Thursday that he did not want to retain the so-called post-Brexit “backstop” that would preserve an open border while a more permanent arrangement is worked out.
“The statements of the British Prime Minister yesterday in the House of Commons were very unhelpful to this process,” Coveney told reporters Friday after meeting the new Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Julian Smith, in Belfast.
Smith is taking over from Karen Bradley who was sacked just hours after Johnson entered Number 10
“He seems to have made a deliberate decision to set Britain on a collision course with the European Union and with Ireland in relation to the Brexit negotiations, and I think only he can answer the question as to why he is doing that,” Coveney was reported as saying in an Irish Independent report.
The Irish Times was reporting today that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is doubling down on her previously stated position that there would be no congressional approval for the UK-U.S. trade deal if Brexit placed the Good Friday Agreement in peril.
“With no signs of any softening of positions in London, Dublin or Brussels, and an increasingly likely no-deal Brexit in October, Ms. Pelosi told The Irish Times in Washington that the issue of Northern Ireland was foremost in the mind of U.S. members of Congress as the Brexit process continued,” the report stated.
In his opening address as prime minister, Johnson, surrounded, as the Irish Times reported, “by members of the new, far more pro-Brexit cabinet formed in a brutal reshuffle on Wednesday,” insisted he would accept no version of the Northern Irish backstop, which will tie the UK to Europe’s customs arrangements until a long-term trade deal can be agreed. The EU has insisted the backstop is vital to avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland.”
Mr. Johnson, the report continued, told the Commons that the current terms of the withdrawal agreement – negotiated by Theresa May, his predecessor, and rejected three times by parliament – were “unacceptable.”
Speaking on Thursday in Glencolumbcille, County Donegal, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar described a no-deal Brexit as “a British threat” and that without the backstop, there would be no free trade deal between the EU and the UK.
“The only people who can cause no-deal are the British government. And while I’m not going to speak to prime minister Johnson over the airwaves, I look forward to meeting him in early course. What I can say is that the position of the European Union and the position of Ireland has not changed,” Varadkar said.
“The backstop is an integral part of the withdrawal agreement without the backstop, there is no withdrawal agreement, there is no transition phase, there’s no implementation phase, and there’ll be no free trade agreement until all those matters are resolved. So I hope that the new UK prime minister hasn’t chosen no deal, but that will be up to them.”