Brexit: The Blame Game

At the moment, British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, is travelling through Europe. Johnson already met with the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, in Berlin where he tried to renegotiate the Irish border backstop. However, Merkel stated that she was open for a dialogue and practical solutions for the Irish border, but she does not want to reopen the negotiations on the Withdrawal Agreement. Today, Johnson is traveling to Paris to meet French President Emmanuel Macron and on Saturday he will attend the G7 summit in Biarritz, France.

Next to his European tour, Boris Johnson also sent a request to the European Council President, Donald Tusk, asking whether the EU is prepared to consider a solution for the Irish border problem and, consequently, wants to reopen the negotiations with the EU. In his letter to Tusk, Johnson made it clear that it is crucial the Irish backstop be removed from the current Brexit deal. Johnson proposed to replace the backstop with alternative arrangements, such as technological solutions, and promised not to put infrastructure, checks or controls in place at the border, but did not provide concrete details. Tusk reacted by saying that he was not in favor of removing the Irish backstop as it is still the only assurance to avoid a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. Tusk judged the alternatives of Johnson as unrealistic and misleading. Therefore, the blame game, of who ultimately will trigger a no-deal Brexit, seems to be accelerating.

As the negotiations between the UK and the European Union clearly do not seem to take off, London wants to show that they are serious about leaving. On 18 August, Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay signed into law legislation to repeal the Act of Parliament which defined Britain’s EU membership in 1972. Barclay stated after signing: “This is a clear signal to the people of this country that there is no turning back, we are leaving the EU as promised on October 31, whatever the circumstances.” The repeal of the European Communities Act 1972 will take effect when Britain formally leaves the EU on 31 October. In addition, on 20 August the UK Government announced that, as of 1 September, UK officials will only attend EU meetings if they could affect national interests, e.g. security.

However, the consequences of leaving the EU without a deal are even worse than expected. A leaked government report, called Operation Yellowhammer, outlined the scenario of what would happen after 31 October if a no-deal Brexit were to happen. The report makes clear that businesses in the UK are not at all ready for such a scenario. A no-deal Brexit would especially have severe consequences for the transport sector. 50% – 85% of lorries travelling across the Channel may not be ready for French customs and at least three months of disruption to the short Channel crossings are expected. In addition, parts of the food supply chain, including the availability of fresh foods as well as ingredients and packaging, could also be impacted, leading to reduced choice and price rises.

In the meantime, Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, is trying to find allies in the House of Commons  to form a temporary government to secure an extension of the current Brexit deadline. However, Liberal Democrats leader, Jo Swinson, criticized the plan, saying that Corbyn is not the right person to build a temporary majority. In addition, Corbyn also said that he wanted to organize elections in which Labour would campaign for a second referendum with the option to stay in the European Union. Elections are likely as the majority of the current government shrank to only one seat. The political parties are also increasingly running political ads on Facebook, especially the Brexit Party, although the Conservative Party and Boris Johnson Facebook campaigns combined dominate the social media campaign.