The prime minister needed a Northern Ireland deal for political reasons ahead of the general election. He now wants to dump it because it’s bad for Britain
Boris Johnson’s proposal to rewrite the Northern Ireland protocol he signed in 2019 suggests that he has still not come to terms with the implications of his red lines on Brexit. Mr Johnson’s delusions on the issue run deep. In October 2019, the prime minister repeatedly told MPs that “there will be no checks between Great Britain and Northern Ireland” despite his own government’s impact assessment saying precisely the opposite. These hurdles, Mr Johnson knew full well, would not be insignificant, as shoppers in Northern Ireland are now finding out. They are the predictable consequences of customs and regulatory deviations between the UK and the EU. Divergence required a border somewhere; the extra bureaucracy was baked into the protocol.
Mr Johnson needed a deal for political reasons ahead of the 2019 general election. He now wants to dump it because it’s bad for Britain. This has much to do with his government’s own behaviour, which has often been lazy, surly and chaotic. What has kept the show on the road has been grace periods, accepted by the EU, where rules of the deal are not applied. These are coming to an end. Without a breakthrough after months of talks behind closed doors, Mr Johnson has decided to conduct negotiations with Brussels in public.