30 July 2019

Even were Johnson’s new Tory government to be serious about negotiating a new Brexit deal with the EU before 31 October – which anyone who cares to look can see it almost certainly isn’t – it would be a waste of the EU’s time. Apart from the fact that Brussels has made it abundantly clear that it will not entertain this, it also knows perfectly well that Johnson is untrustworthy; indeed, in the publicly expressed opinion of both the Scottish first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, and the former Tory attorney-general, Dominic Grieve, he is a complete charlatan. Furthermore, his top adviser and de facto chief executive Dominic Cummings – described by former Tory prime minister David Cameron as a ‘career psychopath’ – is contemptuous both of politicians as a class and civil servants (including diplomats) as a class. As for Johnson’s new cabinet, this is stuffed with liars, light-weights and nasties, among them a worthless foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, who had only four months’ previous ministerial experience in any department prior to his appointment.

If the EU were to refuse to negotiate with such people, it would certainly be blamed by the Johnson government for ‘forcing’ Britain to crash out. But, were the EU instead to agree to negotiate, it would be blamed for this anyway; for negotiations would inevitably fail – whether because Johnson would only go through the motions or because, consequent on some last-minute flirtation with sanity, he were to decide to take them seriously but run up against the over-tight deadline. Why, then, should the EU waste its time when it has equally if not more pressing items on its agenda? It should sit on its hands and let Britain’s political drama play out. Sooner rather than later, and by one means or another, Britain will once more have a responsible government with a genuine mandate from the people – and, with any luck, still be an influential member of the European Union, albeit the poorer because of the billions lost in investment to the Brexit threat and squandered on ‘no deal preparations’.