Conflict between Johnson and European Union

TEHRAN, Jul. 27 (MNA) –Johnson's presence at the head of the European political and administrative equation has led to serious crises between London and Brussels.

It seems that these challenges will reach their peak by 2020. An overview of the analyzes and news that has been published in the Western media about the presence of Johnson in power can send us a clear message about the future of British-European relations.

France warns Boris Johnson not to play games with Irish border

As The Guardian reported, The French government has warned Boris Johnson against playing games with the Irish border after the new British prime minister demanded the ditching of the backstop.

Amélie de Montchalin, France’s minister for European affairs, said both sides should avoid “games, gestures and provocations” with just three months to go before the UK is due to leave the EU. Speaking alongside her Irish counterpart, Helen McEntee, during a visit to the Irish border, De Montchalin said the French president, Emmanuel Macron, would hold talks with Johnson in France in the coming weeks.

She said there was “solidarity” with Ireland and reiterated that the withdrawal agreement was “the best we have” and would not be renegotiated.

De Montchalin said: “As you know, France has a simple approach to a very complex issue. It is a UK decision and it has to be solved by UK decisions again. It is not in Brussels, it is not in Paris, it is not in Dublin that we can decide for the British people how they want to go forward with the process they opened with the referendum.

“If the UK wants to leave, and it wants to leave in an orderly manner, the best we have is the negotiated agreement, which took years and years and detailed work to reach what we found is in the best in of the two parties.

She continued: “What is still to negotiate is the future relationship. We have to create a working relationship and not get into games, gestures, and provocations.”

Johnson said earlier this week that he would not accept a deal that contains the “undemocratic” Irish backstop, the arrangement that would keep Northern Ireland under single market regulations and the whole of the UK in a shared customs territory with the EU until an alternative solution can be found to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.

The prime minister has ordered Michael Gove to lead efforts to ramp up preparations for a no-deal exit this autumn if Brussels refuses to yield on the issue.

But De Montchalin said adding red lines such as the “do or die” exit date of 31 October “only created tensions in diplomacy”.

There is a growing belief in Brussels that Johnson has no intention of negotiating with the EU, but is instead driving forward with a no-deal exit with the understanding that parliament will block him and it will be necessary to call a general election.

Earlier in the day, one of the architects of the 1998 Good Friday agreement, the former Irish prime minister Bertie Ahern, expressed his concern about the danger of an accidental no-deal exit with potentially grave repercussions for peace.

He said: “I think we should all avoid trying to come up with simplistic solutions that this can all be done just by waving a hand or the stroke of a pen.

“It is complex, it is difficult, it is new, and I think forcing a deadline into that is not bright, and I put it no stronger than that … I just don’t see how such a tight timescale – [it’s] nothing to do with the determination or skill, or ability, or anything – just to agree on a whole new agreement, it’s just very hard to see how that can be done by Halloween.”

On Thursday, Johnson clashed with Jean-Claude Juncker, the outgoing European Commission president, after demanding a renegotiation of the withdrawal agreement. The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, also warned that the calls from Downing Street were “unacceptable”.

'Unacceptable': EU dismisses Boris Johnson's Brexit plan hours after he unveils it to MPs

As Independent reported, The EU’s chief negotiator has dismissed Boris Johnson‘s latest Brexit plan just hours after he unveiled it to MPs.

In an email to member states seen by The Independent, Michel Barnier said the proposal unveiled by Mr. Johnson on Thursday afternoon was “of course unacceptable” as it crossed red lines laid down by EU leaders.

Mr. Johnson used his first statement to the House of Commons as prime minister to call on Brussels to drop the controversial Irish backstop from the Brexit withdrawal agreement as the price of further talks.

But in the email, Mr. Barnier told member states that the demands contained in the “rather combative” statement by Mr. Johnson were very clearly a no-go.

“PM Johnson has stated that if an agreement is to be reached it goes by way of eliminating the backstop. This is, of course, unacceptable and not within the mandate of the European council,” he wrote.

The top official added: “As suggested by his rather combative speech, we have to be ready for a situation where he gives priority to the planning for ‘no deal’, partly to heap pressure on the unity of the EU27.

“No deal will never be the EU’s choice, but we all have to be ready for all scenarios.”

Mr. Barnier suggested to the member states that the best response from the EU was ”to remain calm, stick to our principles and guidelines and show solidarity and unity to the 27”.

He also said the speech had sparked “many strong reactions in the House of Commons” and said the EU “must follow carefully the further political and economic reactions and developments in the UK following this speech” – an apparent reference the possible instability of the government.

The prime minister spoke with European Commission president Jean-Clade Juncker on the phone on Thursday evening. An EU source said Mr. Juncker reiterated during the call that the withdrawal agreement was “the best and only agreement possible” and that the Commission was ready to hold more talks should “the United Kingdom wish to clarify its position in more detail”. The pair are understood to have exchanged mobile numbers.

A UK government spokesperson said the prime minister “reiterated that he wants a deal, and will be energetic in pursuit of finding a way forward” during the call but “said the Withdrawal Agreement has been rejected three times by the UK parliament and will not pass in its current form”. The spokesperson added that Mr. Johnson argued that “if an agreement is to be reached it must be understood that the way to a deal goes by way of the abolition of the backstop”.

Making his first statement to the House of Commons as prime minister, Mr. Johnson restated his absolute commitment to taking the UK out of the EU by 31 October, with or without a deal.

And he insisted that any deal must strip out all mention of the backstop – which keeps the UK in a customs union until an alternative way is found to keep the Irish border open – and hold the issue back to later negotiations on the future trade relationship between the UK and EU.

Despite having voted in favor of Ms. May’s deal less than four months ago, the new PM denounced it as “unacceptable” and insisted that “no country that values its independence and indeed its self-respect” could agree on it.

A time limit on the backstop – something which has already been rejected by the EU – was “not enough”, he said.

“If an agreement is to be reached it must be clearly understood that the way to the deal goes by way of the abolition of the backstop,” Mr. Johnson told MPs.

“For our part, we are ready to negotiate in good faith an alternative, with provisions to ensure that the Irish border issues are dealt with where they should always have been: in the negotiations on the future agreement between the UK and the EU.”

To heckles of “how?” from opposition MPs, Mr. Johnson insisted that alternative arrangements for overseeing movements across what would be the post-Brexit UK’s only land border with the EU were “perfectly possible and perfectly compatible with the Belfast, or Good Friday, Agreement”.

He said that he and Dominic Raab, the Brexit secretary, were “ready to meet and to talk on this basis to the commission or other EU colleagues whenever – and wherever – they are ready to do so”.

Mr. Johnson promised the UK would throw itself into negotiations with “the greatest energy and determination and in the spirit of friendship”.

And he added: “I hope that the EU will be equally ready and that they will rethink their current refusal to make any changes to the withdrawal agreement.”

Boris is playing a dangerous game by backing deal and no-deal Brexit

But he said that if Brussels would not budge, the UK was ready to leave without a deal, with preparations “turbo-charged” by Michael Gove, who has been given special responsibilities to get the country ready in his new role as chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

Mr. Johnson also revealed that he would not be nominating a British EU commissioner to sit on the bloc’s new commission – to show he was serious about leaving. The move is a change of approach from Theresa May, who continued to play along with the bloc’s institutions while the UK was still a member state. The EU legal status of the new prime minister’s pledge is yet to be determined.

Speaking on Thursday after the statement, Leo Varadkar, the Irish prime minister, warned: “The position of the European Union and the position of Ireland has not changed.

“The backstop is an integral part of the Withdrawal Agreement, without the backstop there is no Withdrawal Agreement, there is no transition phase, there is no implementation phase and there will be no free trade agreement until all those matters are resolved.”
He added: “So I hope that the new UK prime minister has chosen no deal, but that will be up to them.”

Why Europe can’t stop laughing at Boris Johnson

Also, Politico reported that the headline on the cover of Germany’s Stern magazine this week under a photograph of a surprised-looking Boris Johnson captured the sentiment across the European Union that the new prime minister has built his career on seeking to undermine.

While Americans seem unsure what to make of the new British prime minister ("He's known for making very funny, highly literate, very smart speeches,” a correspondent for US National Public Radio explained to listeners Tuesday, adding that he went to Eton and Oxford and is “absolutely one of Britain’s elite”), Europeans have no illusions about who Johnson really is.

Across the Continent, the reaction to his ascension to the UK’s highest political office has been marked more by gallows humor than genuine concern about what his tenure might bring. From Brussels to Berlin, everyone seems to have a personal "best of Boris" list.

There was that time he got fired from the Times for making up a quote about Edward II’s purported pubescent lover. And how about the piece he wrote in the Telegraph a few years later (“Italy fails to measure up on condoms”) in which he falsely claimed that Rome had tried to convince the EU to revise its rules on condoms to accommodate smaller penises? Remember that video of Johnson plunging headlong into the privates of former German national football player Maurizio Gaudino during a charity match?

While Europeans may take delight in lampooning Donald Trump, they also respect (and fear) the power of his office. But no one’s afraid of Johnson.

Even in a political landscape accustomed to the likes of Silvio Berlusconi and Viktor Orban, Johnson’s outrageous style and Conwayesque relationship with facts make him stick out like his trademark cowlick. But as he showed during his campaign to become prime minister, whether by using a vacuum-packed “kipper” as a stage prop or guzzling beer, Johnson is more than happy to be seen as a clown.

His biggest challenge in dealing with the EU in the coming weeks and months will be to prove there’s more in his repertoire. But after building a political persona over decades based on caricaturing Europeans as humorless rubes, Johnson may soon discover that the targets of his comedy can’t see beyond the joke. After years of laughing at him, Europeans simply don’t take Johnson seriously. At this stage, it’s difficult to imagine what could change their minds.

While Europeans may take delight in lampooning Donald Trump, they also respect (and fear) the power of his office. Whether they like it or not (and most don’t), Trump has considerable leverage over Europe, both in terms of the economy and security. But no one’s afraid of Johnson.

Though the UK remains a key strategic player within Europe, that reliance cuts across both sides of the Channel. Following the seizure of a British-flagged oil tanker by Iran last week, for example, the UK responded by calling for a European naval force to protect sea routes in the Strait of Hormuz.

When it comes to the economy, the UK is far more dependent on the EU than vice versa.

That’s why Europe’s response to Johnson’s threat to leave the EU come what may on October 31, deal or no deal, has been a polite yawn.

If anything, Johnson’s election as prime minister will make it easier for EU leaders to stick to their guns by refusing to budge on the terms of the deal they negotiated with Theresa May, his predecessor. Whatever her shortcomings as a prime minister, May, unlike Johnson, enjoyed a reputation among European leaders as an honest broker.

Given the leading role Johnson played in the Brexit campaign and his continued taunting of the EU, European leaders don’t just distrust the new prime minister, many despise him. The danger of Johnson’s credibility gap is that it could prompt EU leaders to underestimate his willingness to drive Britain off the Brexit cliff, triggering a potentially catastrophic chain reaction.

Johnson’s boosters predict he’ll rise to the historic challenges Britain faces, much like his idol, Winston Churchill. Like Johnson, Churchill also met with deep skepticism when he became prime minister and was viewed as a loose cannon, even reckless.

Yet that would appear to be where the similarities end. Not even Churchill’s political enemies doubted his conviction to his ideals. In Johnson’s case, it’s hard to find anyone who thinks he even has any.

Even if Johnson’s comedic talents have earned him considerable attention (and, arguably, the keys to Downing Street), Europe’s leaders are determined to have the last laugh.

MNA/TT

News Code 148126

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