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Kathy Sheridan: It is tempting but Ireland should not give up on the British

The UK is still our neighbour despite Boris Johnson’s obfuscation on Brexit

And so we move into the utterly deranged phase of Brexit. Just as Novak Djokovic's tantrums were doomed to end with a ball smacking into an umpire's throat, so was Brexit doomed to culminate in a little Englander running away from his commitments because – sniffle – the European Union made me do it. This is Boris Johnson, the man who declared in his triumphant election address nine months ago: "The buck stops here."

Djokovic at least acknowledged that he had to “turn this all into a lesson for my growth and evolution as a player and human being”. The little Englander? No deal was in the playbook all along.

Remember Johnson consented to the withdrawal agreement only because parliament had forced him to take his longed-for no-deal off the table. We may assume he never actually read it. His MPs certainly didn’t. In a diatribe against Dominic Cummings in May, Steve Baker, former European Research Group chair, self-styled “Brexit hard man” wrote in the Critic: [Cummings] “said we should vote for the original withdrawal agreement without reading it, on the basis Michael Gove articulated: we could change it later”.

Snap election

By October, Cummings and Johnson were peppering for an election. And so, conveniently, were their billionaire buddies. Johnson’s summer leadership campaign was still in flight when hedge funder and ardent Brexiter Crispin Odey – who contributed £10,000 to Johnson’s run – was filmed advocating the proroguing of parliament. That was a month before it actually happened. He was later recorded encouraging Johnson to go for a snap election. Johnson went for it doggedly, portraying himself as the people’s tribune against an intransigent parliament.


In September, the City reached for the smelling salts when a commentator said she feared Johnson was being influenced by “people who have invested billions in shorting the pound or shorting the country in the expectation of a no-deal”. The speaker was his sister Rachel. Her concerns were echoed by a recent chancellor of the exchequer, Philip Hammond. The City was... hurt.

In the rarefied world of disaster capitalism, having a punt on the disastrous effects of crashing out of the EU without a deal is what you do. You might even nudge it along. Odey had funded past Brexit campaigns to the tune of about £900,000 and, years before the Brexit referendum, had incubated Jacob Rees-Mogg’s Somerset Capital Management hedge fund start-up.

Odey dismissed Hammond’s concerns as “crap”, complaining that he had been made to look uncaring and “unpatriotic”. Still, on the day after the Brexit referendum, he had been pleased to tell the BBC that he had made £220million speculating that the markets would fall, or as he put it: “‘Il mattino ha l’oro in bocca’ – the morning has gold in its mouth.”

Some financial analysts complain that we simply don’t understand these masterminds; that shorting the pound or the country isn’t what these lads are about. It’s the slashing of red tape and regulatory standards that gets them all excited – and the “business-friendly” tax cuts and tax breaks. Little wonder then that Johnson’s “do or die” Brexit pledge the previous June had pulled in more than £700,000, with JCB’s chairman Anthony Bamford conspicuous among the donors.

Johnson and his handlers can do what they like for the next four years

A lot was riding on getting Brexit done. On the October day when EU-UK agreement was reached, Johnson told the world that it “represents a very good deal . . . a reasonable, fair outcome . . . and of course for us in the UK it means we can deliver a real Brexit that achieves our objectives, that the UK leaves whole and entire on October 31st”. He implored his fellow MPs to help get this “excellent deal” over the line.

They kicked up against the derisory amount of time allocated to scrutinise its contents. Fast forward to yesterday’s main headline in the Daily Telegraph: “Brexit deal never made sense, PM to tell EU”. “A senior government source said some of the consequences ‘were not foreseen’ at the time,” went a line in the report.

Election mandate

Remember this was the same “real”, “excellent”, “oven-ready” deal that formed the centrepiece for their “Get Brexit done” election. His general-election mandate, the basis on which the people gave Johnson a massive working majority of 87, which promptly led to a 124-vote majority for the withdrawal agreement Bill in the new parliament.

Then the mandate turns out to be a lie.

Who knows whose agendas, whose dark money, whose power-crazed notions held sway in the end? The corrosive slipperiness, obfuscation, threats and low cunning are exhausting to the point where some here are suggesting we just let it go; let them off to explore their diamond-hard Brexit in the sunny uplands. Nod to the inevitable.

Practical and moral matters aside, I don’t agree. They represent our siblings, our neighbours, our havens in truly hard times, our cultural touchstones in many important if sometimes mysterious ways.

The fact that Johnson’s party has lost a 26-point lead over Labour in five months, according to a recent Opinium/Observer poll, suggests an awakening. But to what purpose? Dissenters are powerless against his mighty majority and the fixed five-year term. His ministers owe their positions to the purity of their Brexitry. Barring a people’s revolution or a Tory revolt, Johnson and his handlers can do what they like for the next four years. If he tires, would the current chosen one, Rishi Sunak, raise the bar?

It’s grim. Let’s just take a moment here to celebrate proportional representation and shaky majorities.