Remember when it was suggested that Boris Johnson might send two letters to Brussels if he didn’t get a Brexit deal by October 19 – one requesting a delay in Brexit, in accordance with the Benn Act, and one discouraging EU nations from agreeing to it?
Well, it seems that prediction was close to the mark.
In a text message sent to the political editor of The Spectator, Downing Street has said it will indeed send two letters. One will be the request for a delay, as required by the Benn Act.
The other will be an attempt to bully EU nations into rejecting that request, stating that those who reject a delay will “go to the front of the queue” for future co-operation – on matters such as defence – while those who support it will be deemed to have participated in “hostile interference” in the UK’s domestic politics.
Obviously, it is ridiculous to send a request for a delay and then say supporting that request is “hostile interference”. And what about the claim that countries supporting Mr Johnson will “go to the front of the queue” for co-operation? That’s straight out of the Donald Trump phrasebook – but Trump is president of the world’s largest superpower and Boris Johnson… well… isn’t.
Is there even a queue for the UK’s co-operation at the moment? Mr Johnson has proved himself utterly incompetent at foreign affairs and the only conclusion available to foreign powers is that any co-operation they receive from a nation under his leadership will also be utterly incompetent.
If he sends this message, he will put himself on course for yet another humiliation – and he will humiliate the rest of us along with him.
But wait! There’s more.
This is saying the Johnson administration will not take part in negotiations over the conditions in which Brexit would be delayed. He would go away and sulk instead.
And the claim that Mr Johnson will aim to win a future election in order to revoke “the entire EU legal order” is actually a threat against the people of the United Kingdom, who will lose many – if not all – of their legal protections if the EU’s legal structure is erased in one of BoJob’s tantrums.
Furthermore, this threat takes no account of the response by other UK institutions. Only yesterday (Monday, October 7), the highest court in Scotland warned Mr Johnson that he must adhere to the law – and there can be no doubt that Lord Pentland intends to hold him to the spirit of that law, not just its letter.
And what of the response by other political organisations? We have one already – and it puts our petulant prime minister right in his place. It was delivered by Labour’s shadow foreign secretary, Emily Thornberry – a woman who is far more capable than Mr Johnson.
First, let’s have the story as it was delivered by BBC Newsnight‘s Emily Maitlis:
Cummings has lost the plot: Senior number 10 source texting the Spectator: “countries which oppose delay will go to the front of the queue for future cooperation..Supporting delay will be seen by this government as hostile interference in domestic politics.” pic.twitter.com/bkQQCihvOO
— Peter Kay (@theonlypeterkay) October 7, 2019
Here’s Ms Thornberry’s response:
Emily Thornberry on Johnson/Cummings continued attempts to get around obeying the law.
"It's like dealing with children…this is not grown-up behaviour" pic.twitter.com/FA3K9E849i
— The Prole Star (@TheProleStar) October 7, 2019
“It’s like dealing with children.” Spot on.
When Ms Maitlis suggests that Mr Johnson is trying to make matters hard for Europe, she said: “Let’s see.” She clearly does not believe the EU27 countries will entertain any ultimatum for a single second.
And she’s right! Parliament has passed a law – the Benn Act – which states that, having failed to get a deal, Mr Johnson is legally bound to seek an extension because that is the will of Parliament and Parliament is sovereign. The powers-that-be in Brussels know that, and are therefore likely to pay scant regard to schoolboy threats that have no substance.
Already the Twitter wits are having their fun:
We can all look forward to the moment the EU negotiators have their fun with this silliness too.