Any notion that Johnson had a serious plan for negotiation with the EU went out of window with the publication of his letter to Donald Tusk , President of the EU Council. It turns out his trips to see Merkel and Macron this week are no more than a European Mini Break : simply a media opportunity to create a semblance of purposeful activity
The letter appears to have been dashed of with a casual , almost nonsensical arrogance . Its argument is thin – to the point of invisibility . No serious attempt is made to couch it in terms which demonstrate an effort to establish common ground as a basis for negotiation . Instead it seems to have written for publication in the Johnson House Journal .
It begins with platitudes about what binds Ireland , EU and UK together , and makes a hollow gesture towards the Belfast Peace Agreement , which as we see on the next page , it disregards almost immediately .
Next it launches into Cummings’s favourite calumny : that the Good Friday Agreement Guarantee – aka Backstop – is anti democratic because it impinges on UK sovereignty . This is a wrongheaded and perverse misrepresentation of the UK’s obligations under the Belfast Agreement – an agreement which is lodged at the UN . So within the space of one page Johnson avers his commitment to the GFA and then resiles from it .
As should be generally known by now the Leave campaigns never gave any serious thought to the question of the UK land border with the EU , much less had a plan to address it . When the Leave campaigns’ inchoate ideas were raised as a threat to GFA the concern was dismissed as Project Fear .
Oliver Norgrove a Vote Leaver staffer during the Referendum campaign has written reflectively about what went through his mind at the time –
The European Research Group response , having you will remember welcomed May’s proposals in December 2017 before developing its antagonism to the Backstop , has been to retrofit some magical thinking from Shanker Singham , served up with a combination of bluster and threat. As can be seen from the letter the Alternative Arrangements phantom lives on .
Johnson/Cummings turn reality on its head to promote the specious argument that the Backstop is antidemocratic . With a revisionist zeal they have airbrushed from their minds the fact that the impasse results from UK serving Article 50 notice without a clear destination in view or the means to achieve it , compounded by the conflicting Red Lines .
Johnson having dumped blame for a situation of the UK’s making on the EU proceeds to row back from the UK wide Backstop and alignment with Single Market rules . All of this is pointing towards a Canada style future relationship .
All that is offered essentially is Alternative Arrangements accompanied by a meaningless mutual commitment not to erect a hard border .
Ultimately what we have here is a shabby sham negotiation . Indeed the megaphone non diplomacy of a press release masquerading as a negotiating letter is almost calculated to antagonise those we should be seeking to persuade . It looks like Gilet Noir Dom is determined to ensure nothing should interrupt his blame the EU narrative and his intent to crash out with No Deal on 31 October .