MARY HONEYBALL: Johnson’s plan to force UK’s expulsion

Boris Johnson ahead of the 2017 general election. (Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)

Boris Johnson ahead of the 2017 general election. (Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images) - Credit: Getty Images

Number 10's boorish antics seem designed to push the EU into taking the decisive step, says MARY HONEYBALL.

As Britain's epic struggle continues, its maverick and increasingly dangerous prime minister threatens to disobey the law preventing a no-deal Brexit. He is in a bind and desperately needs to find a way out.

But leaving the EU is not just a British concern. The side being left, the EU, has its own views on the matter, its own agenda and its own negotiating strategy. Having failed at home, Boris Johnson now has the EU in his sights.

Throughout the Brexit shenanigans, before the 2016 referendum, before David Cameron's disastrous attempt in early 2016 to get concessions from Brussels and even before Cameron took the Conservatives out of the centre-right European People's Party in the European parliament, Britain has taken a one-sided Little England view of what has been going on.

The EU has hardly featured in the bulk of the media coverage and online conversations. As a result there is still a serious lack of understanding about Europe across the UK as a whole.

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This UK-centric view may now be coming home to roost. Having worked there as a journalist, Johnson understands Brussels well. He is now poised to do his very worst.

We are approaching crunch point. The House of Commons can do all it likes to force the prime minister to request an extension to Article 50. Only the EU can agree to it.

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Johnson and his advisor Dominic Cummings are only too aware that after two previous extensions, the EU is becoming ever more concerned about events in the UK.

The chancer and the controller are perhaps now sensing their opportunity, encouraged by Jean-Yves Le Drian, the increasingly exasperated French foreign minister who has made it clear the EU is running out of patience with Britain.

Even the normally pro-UK head of the European parliament Brexit Steering Group, Guy Verhofstadt, is becoming less forgiving. The EU's Council of Ministers will surely understand what Johnson is up to. They will see his feeble attempts to open the Withdrawal Agreement and begin new negotiations for what they are - unreasonable demands which can never be met.

The idea that the Irish backstop can be scrapped and agrifood dealt with on a common basis across the island of Ireland is obviously not tenable.

Neither is seeking to remove all references to a level playing field from the Withdrawal Agreement, meaning that Britain would no longer be aligned with EU standards. And Brussels will never agree to rewrite the defence pledges. (The current political declaration contains a commitment to "close cooperation in [European] Union-led crisis management missions and operations, both civilian and military".)

Johnson's demands would undermine the single market and drive a coach and horses through sensitive defence agreements among the EU 27.

Johnson's has pandered to the right-wing elements in his own party and Farage's Brexit Party. A new agreement with the EU on the Johnson-Farage terms is simply not possible. And neither is there evidence that the threat of no-deal would have changed the collective mind of the EU. Johnson's bluster was and is no more than noise, but it could be noise with a purpose.

Having failed to bully the British parliament, Johnson is now trying to bully the EU into expelling Britain. This is Johnson and Cummings' cunning plan. Johnson would achieve his aim of getting Britain out and be able to lay the blame at the door of the EU. Sadly, this is not a fantastical as it sounds.

It is, fortunately for the United Kingdom, extremely unlikely that the EU will give into Johnson's deceitful and destructive behaviour.

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