Johnson’s treachery will be turned on Ireland if and when it suits him

Posted By: October 22, 2019

Deal with Brussels limits damage to Ireland by increasing damage to Britain…

Britain’s prime minister, Boris Johnson has  struck a terrible deal for the people of Britain – it opens the way to a hard-right, radically deregulated version of Brexit.
Fintan O’Toole. Irish Times. Dublin. Tuesday, October 22, 2019
Beaufort’s Dyke is a trench, 50km long [54.68 yards, approximately], 3.5km wide [2.175 miles] and between 200 and 300m deep [656 – 984 feet], under the sea between Northern Ireland and Scotland. After the second World War, the British government decided that it was the most convenient place to dump about a million tonnes of unused conventional and chemical weapons, including sarin and tabun (both nerve gases), phosgene, mustard gas and explosives.

Nobody is quite sure what is down there: the British government told parliament in 2002 that “detailed inventories of chemical weapons and other munitions disposed of in Beaufort’s Dyke are no longer available; many records were destroyed after the disposals as a matter of routine custom and practice in view of the fact that sea dumping of munitions, including chemical weapons-filled items, was then an acceptable method of disposal”. The dyke also contains about two tonnes of nuclear waste, dumped in the 1950s.

I mention this because Boris Johnson, who has a pharaoh complex, is obsessed with the idea, as he put in on a visit to Northern Ireland last month, of “building a bridge from Stranraer in Scotland to Larne in Northern Ireland”. Apart from all the obvious difficulties of a structure spanning 32km [19.89 miles] of choppy seas, Johnson’s bridge would have to sit on top of one of one of Europe’s largest maritime munitions dumps. And yes, please do insert your own metaphor here. This is about the only joy of Brexit: it comes with its own self-assembly allegories, and they are much easier to fit together than an Ikea bookcase.

Bluster and mendacity

Presumably, for Unionists, Johnson’s big idea sounded marvelously reassuring. Here was the Bridge Over Troubled Waters, a physical manifestation of the resolve so boldly articulated by the new prime minister’s adoption of the title “minister for the union” and declaration that “the union comes first”. They chose not to notice that it is built, not even on sand, but on the toxic dump of bluster and mendacity that is baseline Boris. Or that Johnson’s last fantasy, the Garden Bridge over the Thames which he sponsored as mayor of London, has been abandoned, leaving the public with an invoice for £43 million (€50 million). My favorite item on the bill left to be picked up by Londoners is £3,200 (€3,718) to the winner of a Garden Bridge auction prize who did not receive their promised game of “table tennis with Boris Johnson”. (Again, insert your own DUP metaphor here.)

 However, in an interview with the Sunday Times at the weekend, the Taoiseach bizarrely endorsed the idea that the Bridge of Lies between Northern Ireland and Scotland is a meaningful prospect. “Prime minister Johnson is genuinely interested in taking a serious look at this idea of building a bridge between Antrim and Scotland. I know people dismiss it, but I don’t. It needs to be looked at, it needs to be at least examined.” Leo Varadkar is, as we know, susceptible to the allure of the political bromance and presumably this nonsense is all part of Project BUB: Buttering Up Boris. That this involves the pretense of taking a typically self-aggrandiszng Johnsonian absurdity seriously should be a reminder of what a dangerous game this is.
Irish diplomacy
The new draft of the withdrawal agreement is an extraordinary triumph for Irish diplomacy but, like everything else in the Brexit saga, it has a very obvious downside. Ireland has acquired a large shareholding in Boris Inc. Johnson has become the improbable vehicle for the achievement of Irish ends. His deal with Brussels effectively lifts the looming threat of a hard Border and it is very much in the interests of the vast majority of people on this island that it wins parliamentary approval. But it is also a terrible deal for the people of Britain – it opens the way to a hard-right, radically deregulated version of Brexit. In effect, it limits the damage to Ireland by increasing the damage to Britain. Basic decency demands that we recognise the inherent discomfort of this situation.

This is not Ireland’s fault – we cannot, in the end, save Britain from itself and we have no choice but to prioritize our own vital national interests. But it leaves us in the rather nauseating position of having to cheer Johnson on – the devil’s deal is that we get the lifeboats so long as Johnson is allowed to steer his own country straight toward the iceberg. We should not, however, fool ourselves that Johnson is now Ireland’s friend. The harm he will do to Britain will harm us too. And any glee at Johnson’s betrayal of the DUP must be tempered by the realization that, if and when it suits him, his treachery will be turned on Ireland. It  is his nature.

There is nothing quite as foolish as marrying someone who has committed adultery with you and expecting faithfulness. The DUP was mad to trust the great political philanderer it helped place in 10 Downing Street. The Irish Government would be no less insane to forget the poison gas of bad faith and the unexploded shells of recklessness that lurk beneath everything Johnson does. It may have been forced into a marriage of convenience – but, please, spare us the bromance.