Well. It’s a bit early to say that Boris Johnson has been hoist by his own petard, but the House of Commons is not going according to his script. The opposition have managed to box him in so that a no-deal Brexit will be impossible. They’ve passed the Bill in the Commons and it’s either been passed or will soon be passed in the House of Lords. But according to reports, the Labour Party in particular is not going to trust Boris Johnson, even with the bill passed into law. They’re going to – or at least I hope they’re going to – see every last element of the bill cemented in law so that Johnson can’t ignore it or tinker with it or pull some other fast one. It’s a bit like Bob Dylan’s ‘Masters of War’: “And I’ll stand over your coffin to make sure that you’re dead.”
What enrages Johnson and the Tories most is, of course, that the stumbling-block should be Ireland. Damn paddies, insisting that Britain act in certain ways – who do they think we are? They don’t say it out loud. Out loud they promise that they’ll never construct a hard border, trust us, guys. Well, if the Labour Party don’t trust him, I don’t see why Ireland should. (And by the way: can we get commentators to stop talking about ‘Ireland’ when they mean the twenty-six counties that form the Republic of Ireland? If we’re not careful they’ll saw off the north-east and push it into the North Sea. )
But so far so good. Johnson can call Corbyn all the names that he likes (where do you suppose he got that habit?), but the fact remains that his precious no-deal appears to have been scuppered. Despite all their blandishments, nobody – the Labour Party, the Lib Dems, Scotland, Wales, Ireland north and south –none of them trusts him by the width of a razor blade, and they’re acting in unison to make sure he doesn’t pull any sleight of hand. I think the marvelous Chris O’Dowd (remember him in Bridesmaids?) put it best in an interview with The Guardian yesterday. Apparently, he was all charm and smiles until the interviewer raised the question of Brexit and the border in Ireland. “
“It seems oddly fitting to the people of Ireland,” he says finally, “that Brexit is coming down to the backstop. The suggestion that the British government is making – that they won’t fuck us over – is laughable. That’s what they have done for 800 years. People growing up in Britain won’t have much sense of that. Their history books don’t really dwell on the depraved way Britain has treated its closest neighbour. What do I think will happen? Irish prosperity and peace are going to be completely usurped by Westminster. Again.”
No more Mr Nice Guy, then. And can you blame him?