British Prime Minister Boris Johnson traveled to Ireland this morning and, not surprisingly, he did not find a breakthrough that would make a hard Brexit less likely or less painful.
Johnson has insisted that former Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal is not acceptable because the Irish border backstop would keep the United Kingdom too closely wed to the European Union for the foreseeable future, but neither Johnson or anyone else have floated a serious proposal or alternative for replacing the backstop. And, as you know, preserving freedom of movement between Ireland and Northern Ireland is crucial.
Irish leader Leo Varadkar reiterated to reporters this morning that Johnson still hasn't made a serious proposal while Johnson implied that a hard Brexit would be everyone's failure, not just his own.
From the Washington Post:
[The] chilly, overcast skies in Dublin matched the apparent mood between the leaders. While Varadkar told reporters he was hoping for “a good start” to the talks, he was also clear that Johnson’s government had yet to offer a serious proposal for breaking through the deadlock.
And he savaged a favorite Johnson talking point, insisting that a British exit without a deal would only lead to more rounds of interminable negotiation — not to an end to Britain’s Brexit agony.
“There is no such thing as a clean break,” Varadkar said as Johnson grimaced.
The British leader struck a notably more conciliatory tone than he had last week, insisting again that the Britain “will come out on October 31” but also citing a clear preference for a deal to manage the withdrawal.
To leave without one, he said, “would be a failure of statecraft for which we would all be responsible.” In the past, Johnson has been dismissive about the potential negative consequences of a no-deal exit.
The word "we" is both far too broad and not inclusive enough.
Although he's been a proponent of it for years, Boris Johnson is not singularly responsible for the Brexit. A wide range of politicians who promised that the Brexit would usher in a new era of economic might and independence accompanied by a heavenly brass section are responsible as are British citizens themselves for buying the fairy tale and voting to approve it.
But that's not who Boris Johnson was referring to when he said "we." When he said "we would all be responsible," he was implying that his counterparts in Ireland and the rest of the European Union would be responsible. It's an attempt to evade some measure of responsibility.
The Brexit is an entirely self-inflicted wound and it's not anyone else's responsibility to accommodate the British government. European leaders have already gone out of their way and exercised literally years of patience while British politicians and the public play an existential tug of war.
Although British parliament has now passed a law requiring that Johnson ask the European Union for another delay, Johnson's top officials say he's still committed to leaving the European Union next month.
Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Sunday that the Brexit plan is unchanged -- even though Parliament passed a law requiring Johnson to ask the European Union for an extension on Oct. 19 if he can’t get a deal by then.
“The Prime Minister is sticking to his guns,” Raab told Sky News, adding that Johnson will visit Dublin for talks on Monday. “We’re going to keep going on with the negotiations, we know we want a deal by the end of October, but we must leave come what may.”
I don't think Britain should leave the European Union next month, but I also don't see what the point of another delay would be.
Another delay isn't going to change the fact that the Brexit is a fundamentally bad idea that's never going to lead to better outcomes for British citizens. British parliament wants another delay that will presumably give the government more time to find a better deal, but there is no deal to be had.
The men who control the government today may have told themselves that former Prime Minister Theresa May simply didn't try hard enough, or that she was a bad negotiator, but the core problem is that the Brexit itself is a terrible idea.
This may not end until there's a either hard Brexit or the Brexit is canceled.