Boris Johnson is leading Britain right over the cliff

[NOTE: Formally, Britain left the European Union on January 31 of this year. In that sense, Brexit has already occurred. However, the intended full implementation of Brexit, involving significant details about trade agreements and so on, has not been achieved. The distinction between Brexit and a comprehensive Brexit deal should be kept in mind in the following.]

The Brexit controversy of the day is about the “backstop agreement.”

Actually, the backstop agreement has always been the real sticking point in Brexit, but it is rearing its very ugly head again. 1/20

The backstop agreement, which was negotiated with the EU by Theresa May, put Northern Ireland (NIR) in important respects outside the U.K.’s own common market in order to prevent the imposition of a hard border between the NIR and the Irish Republic (IRL). 2/20

Under the backstop agreement, when the U.K. left Brexit and the European Common Market, goods imported from the rest of the U.K. to Northern Ireland would have to conform with EU trading agreements and regulations. 3/20

That meant, in effect, that the NIR would remain in the EU’s common market for trade, while leaving the U.K. “common market.” 4/20

(The NIR has already left the European Union along with the rest of the U.K. under Brexit. The EU was established years after the establishment of the European Common Market, and involves political ties and commitments that go beyond trade and “open borders.”) 5/20

Since the NIR itself would remain committed to EU common market trading rules and regulations under the backstop agreement, the open borders trading agreement between the two Irelands (called the Good Friday Agreement), which was negotiated in 1998, could and would be maintained. 6/20

Theresa May negotiated the backstop agreement with the EU in order to maintain the Good Friday Agreement, which had succeeded in ending the horrific violence that until then had been tearing Ireland (and the U.K.) apart. 7/20

Boris Johnson has himself signed a Withdrawal Agreement (WA), essentially a later and slightly amended instantiation of May’s earlier backstop agreement. Britain is legally committed to the full terms of the Withdrawal Agreement under international law. 8/20

The backstop agreement / WA was necessary because leaving the GFA in place while also allowing trade between the NIR and the rest of the U.K. to continue without the imposition of EU trade restrictions would blow a big hole in the EU’s common market. 9/20

It would entail open borders between one of the EU’s member states (the Irish Republic) and the UK, so there would no longer be a common trade barrier between the EU and the rest of the world. 10/20

(For an analogy, imagine California trying to exempt itself from U.S. tariff and trade regulations with China, while remaining in the U.S. “common market”!) 11/20

Boris Johnson and his hardline Brexiteers in the Conservative Party are declaring now they will not honor the backstop agreement / WA that the U.K. has made with the EU, and are insisting that it be renegotiated.

Johnson is demanding a rewrite of the Northern Ireland protocol in a way that would involve the EU handing over final authority on issues of trade between the NIR and the rest of the U.K. to London. (Disagreements would no longer default to the position of the EU.) 12/20

For its part, the EU has also announced that it will not (and indeed it really cannot) sign any trade agreement with Britain absent the present terms of the WA, and has said that Johnson is imperiling any future trade agreement between the UK and the EU. 13/20

It is clear that Johnson is determined to leave the European Common Market completely at the end of the year (December 31) with or without a trade agreement with the EU. 14/20

In fact, it is clear at this point that the lying, duplicitous Boris Johnson never intended to honor the backstop agreement. He was just kicking the can down the road, thereby making a hard, no deal Brexit inevitable. 15/20

A no-deal exit from the European Common Market that disavows Britain’s commitment to the Northern Ireland protocol as it is presently written will revive the whole “Irish question” and all the problems (and quite likely the violence) that paralyzed the U.K. before the open borders agreement was negotiated in 1998, because it will, in effect, entail moving the hard trading border between the UK and the EU (which must land somewhere) from the Irish Sea to the border between the NIR and the IRL. 16/20

The move will seriously roil British politics, and also make Britain a pariah among the nations because Britain will have failed to honor an international agreement that was signed by the Conservative Party and Boris Johnson himself. 17/20

The threat of a failure to reach an agreement with the EU on the Northern Ireland protocol is also looming as an economic disaster for the UK. That is one reason why UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has been in Washington trying to negotiate a stronger U.S-U.K. trade agreement to help compensate for the impending economic and trade disaster. 18/20

Ominously for Johnson and the Conservative Party, Biden and Pelosi have said that a U.S. trade deal is contingent on “respect for the Good Friday Agreement.” Raab isn’t likely to have any more success with Republicans in Congress either, given the significance of the Irish-American voter in American politics. 19/20

Trump and Boris Johnson appear to be in a race to the bottom to see which country can do the most in the shortest time to sully their countries’ international reputations. No wonder they like and admire each other so much. 20/20

The Resistance. Vote Blue: True Blue American. We look forward, they look back. We’re progressive, they’re regressive. @twoodiac