Just as the warm Eurovision applause for Sam Ryder dies down, the government will renew its confrontation with the European Union. Far from “getting Brexit done” in 2019, it seems to have become a permanent embarrassment and a weeping diplomatic sore – a sort of cold war. Surely this is not the Brexit anyone voted for?
This week, the foreign secretary will publish legislation designed to allow Britain to break an international treaty. Helpfully, the attorney general, Suella Braverman, has reversed the advice of her predecessor, Sir Geoffrey Cox, and advised that such a unilateral move would be lawful. This, of course, does not make it lawful; still less does it make it wise.
The threat is designed to strike such fear into the hearts and minds of the EU that it will simply decide to pretend, in effect, that it doesn’t need a trade border with the UK at all, and that its single market will be fine, just as the British government is pretending that the Northern Ireland protocol is a problem that can be solved by ignoring it. It is a kind of Alice in Wonderland proposition: that if we all stop thinking about the Irish border, it will disappear.
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