Nothing is more dangerous than letting go of a jilted star advisor. Dominic Cummings (Durham, 49 years old) was the ideologue of Brexit. The author of brilliant political slogans like Take Back Control (Let’s Take Back Control) or Get Brexit Done (Let’s Make Brexit Possible), which contributed to the Eurosceptic victory in the 2016 referendum or the arrival in Downing Street of Boris Johnson in 2019. But since the prime minister decided to remove him from government, almost a year ago, Cummings has been resurrected occasionally at the least opportune moment, via Twitter, to remind himself that the emperor is naked. This Wednesday has unleashed the nerves of the British Government, just as London was preparing to begin a new duel of force with Brussels over the delicate Northern Ireland Protocol.
Cummings has revealed that Johnson’s team, during the final phase of negotiations with the European Union to carry out Brexit, was absolutely clear that it would not comply with part of what was signed. “We assumed command of a party that had a popular support of barely 10%, in the midst of the most serious constitutional crisis of the century. Most of the establishment pressed to achieve a soft Brexit or a second referendum. We dealt with the best options we had, with the intention that the [primer ministro] get rid of the parts we don’t like once we are done with [Jeremy] Corbyn [el entonces líder de la oposición laborista]. We just prioritize, ”Cummings wrote in the hours after the Johnson government demanded a drastic review from Brussels of the delicate Northern Ireland Protocol. Cummings uses the emoticon of a shopping cart in his Twitter messages to refer to Boris Johnson. When last June, the former adviser went into a tailspin against the Conservative government that had thrown him out the back door and began revealing the ins and outs of Downing Street to a parliamentary commission, he described the prime minister as a runaway cart lurching to the right and Left down the aisles of a supermarket. Cummings’ revelation, however, does not describe a lurch but a calculated hoax. Cynically, he exonerates Johnson of a cheating strategy he only half learned about, according to his former adviser. “He never had the slightest idea what it meant to leave the customs union [de la UE]. Shortly afterwards he was stammering that ‘I would never have signed it if I had understood it’ (but that was a lie) ”, he assures.
The current deputy prime minister of Ireland, formerly prime minister, Leo Varadkar, was key in the last days of the negotiations to convince Johnson to sign the Protocol, the main obstacle for Brexit to go through. He has taken Cummings’ comments seriously enough to lash out at the British government’s international credibility: “The message has been clear. Let no country sign any agreement with the United Kingdom until it is clear that this Government lives up to its promises, “he told the BBC.
David Frost, the minister in charge of negotiating with the EU now, explains a much more innocent version of things these days. Johnson’s team, according to him, was aware that the implementation of the Irish Protocol was going to be difficult, but they signed with the will to try to comply with it. It has been the events of the subsequent months – Protestant violence on the streets of Belfast or Derry; threats to customs controllers; empty shelves in supermarkets – according to Frost, which have led the British Government to conclude that the Protocol was doing precisely what it was intended to prevent, by jeopardizing the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which brought peace to a tormented region. The Protocol retains Northern Ireland, a British territory, within the EU internal market. It was the solution to avoid a new border that would split the island of Ireland (the Republic of Ireland is the only land border of the United Kingdom with the European Union), and not to resurrect tensions and ghosts in this way. In return, the Irish Sea would be the customs demarcation line between the EU and the UK. The proposal never convinced either the Northern Irish unionist parties, which considered themselves betrayed and have since threatened to break the fragile political stability of the region, or the hard wing of the Conservative Party, which considered the country’s territorial integrity to be broken.
But hours before Brussels proposed a comprehensive solution, which eliminates almost 80% of customs controls, the Johnson government has pulled out of its sleeve a new demand that is practically impossible for the EU to satisfy: it wants the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU), the maximum guarantor of the rules of the internal market, does not have the supervision of the Protocol, as London agreed and signed. They have turned it into a new ideological battle with the banner of “sovereignty” ahead. “Important changes must be addressed on fundamental aspects at the heart of the Protocol, including governance [el tecnicismo con que Downing Street se refiere a la jurisdicción del TJUE], if we want to reach a lasting agreement that obtains the support of Northern Ireland ”, said a spokesman for the Johnson government after learning about the proposals to modify the treaty made by the European Commission.
Cummings, however, has uncovered all of Johnson’s letters, explaining that his team had already planned, at the time of the negotiation, to deactivate part of the Protocol through a new national law: The UK Internal Market Act. In order to coordinate the market rules of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, after leaving the EU, the Conservative Government managed to irritate Brussels with a legal project that left the decision to impose or not in the hands of ministers. customs controls between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. Only in the face of the threat of legal action from the European Commission, Downing Street withdrew the conflicting part of the law.
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The Johnson Government It has launched its umpteenth battle with Brussels as internal problems pile up, stemming in large part from a poorly managed Brexit. The port of Felixstowe, northeast of London, has begun to divert cargoes arriving with containers to other points. The largest port in the United Kingdom is at the limit of its capacity, because the lack of truckers has drastically delayed the departure of the goods accumulated in its facilities.
Approximately 36% of the country’s imports arrive through this entry point. Toys, sporting goods or furniture arrive in the UK through Felixstowe. They are non-perishable items, and shipping is cheaper. British companies have already warned the Johnson government to get used to the idea of a troubled Christmas, in which consumers will find many gaps in the shelves of department stores. Johnson finally gave his thumbs up, reluctantly, to the granting of 5,000 temporary visas, so that EU truckers could come to the aid of the UK. During the pandemic, more than 20,000 of them returned to their countries, and the new immigration laws passed after Brexit, much more restrictive, had completely prevented their return. The solution, however, has been late, scarce and ineffective. The numbers of Community drivers who have applied for a visa have been practically irrelevant.
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