John Bruton: Boris wants to win election before UK feels effect of no deal

‘Some Tories would like to try and peel off one country or another from the EU’

John Bruton: “We need to be solidly aligned with the EU on this.” Photograph: Tom Honan/The Irish Times.

John Bruton: “We need to be solidly aligned with the EU on this.” Photograph: Tom Honan/The Irish Times.

 

New British prime minister Boris Johnson has only one perspective and that is to ensure that the Conservatives win the next election, according to former taoiseach John Bruton.

“Boris Johnson is doing everything with one perspective in mind, and that’s the interests of the British Conservative party and ensuring that it wins an election before the results of its no deal Brexit policy are felt by the English people.

“Everything is driven by that, those are his priorities, he’s actually setting up a fight so to speak, in order to be able to clothe himself in English nationalism in an election setting to his party’s benefit,” he told RTÉ radio’s Today with Miriam O’Callaghan show.

“I think no other considerations are being allowed to enter into the calculation at this stage. If he were to win the election, he might then begin to think more seriously about the implications.”

He warned that “there’s nothing that people in the Tory party in Britain would like more than to try and peel off one country or another from the European Union.

Fail

“They’ve failed to do that up to now and they must continue to fail to do so, because as part of an EU block, we have much more economic and negotiating clout than we have attempting to do anything on the side lines on our own.”

When asked about the failure of Mr Johnson to call Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, he said that a call wouldn’t make a difference. “We all know what Boris Johnson is saying from the airwaves, he wouldn’t say anything different in a phone call. His interest is focused on elections in Britain and outmaneuvering Farage.

“We’ve got to face the fact that on 31 October the likelihood is that Britain will be out of the European Union without a deal. As a result of that we, as an EU member, will have to impose border checks particularly in regard to food and agricultural imports because once Britain is out of the EU we have no guarantee of the standards of whatever they might be exporting to Ireland, across the border or across the Irish Sea and we will have to check that it complies with EU standards as a full member of the single market. Being a member of the single market has brought us huge amounts of foreign direct investment so we’ve got to preserve that.”

Painful

Mr Burton also predicted that a no deal Brexit “will be painful for people living close to the border.

“We need to be solidly aligned with the EU on this.”

The Irish Government cannot be expected to do business with Mr Johnson until he decides on a position. “I don’t believe he will be in a position to do that until he has dealt with his party’s electoral issue first.”

Mr Bruton also said there was no point “in shifting on a position just to give it away, if there’s no prospect of the other side shifting and there seems to be absolutely no prospect given the things that are being said, given the way the government has been constituted, given the way Downing Street office has been established.

“There is no sign of any willingness to do business on that side of the water. I can see no percentage at all for us in making any hint of concession, it’s not for us to do that any way.

“Any concession that might be made will be made by the European Union and we will be one of the 27 making any concession. But concessions don’t seem to be the order of the day, because politics is the order of the day in Britain.”