What's the point of walking out if you don't slam a few doors on the way? That seems to be Boris "BoJo" Johnson's outlook.
No sooner had the union jacks been lowered in Brussels and Strasbourg, after 47 years of tortured British membership, than Boris Johnson was preparing to launch the UK into yet another uncompromising battle with the remaining 27 nations of the European Union.
The morning after he had finally achieved his goal of removing the UK from the European club, Downing Street released photographs of the prime minister triumphantly striking a gong on the stroke of 11pm (midnight Brussels time) as this country took its leave. The text from a short speech he made as the clock struck 11 was also released.
As he hit the gong with glee, he was just flexing his muscles for more combat with the UK’s now ex-partners.
There now begins an 11-month transition period during which the prime minister and his government will face the herculean task of securing a future trading and security relationship with the EU. If there is no deal by 31 December, the UK will face a cliff-edge descent into the economic unknown.Trench warfare.
The EU is making clear its bottom lines. It insists that the UK must accept alignment with its rules on workers’ rights, the environment and state aid, as the price for a deal (fearing that otherwise the UK will steal a competitive advantage). But Johnson will say that his government will make no such concessions, under any circumstances. There will be no alignment whatsoever.Tossing grenades.
Downing Street also did nothing to knock down reports that the UK is preparing to impose full customs and border checks on all European goods entering Britain, to try to increase pressure on the bloc to give way in the negotiations, which are due to start next month.
Dominic Raab has been accused of engaging in diplomatic “sabre-rattling” after rejecting legislative alignment with Brussels and dismissing claims by Michel Barnier that the Brexit agreement makes customs checks in the Irish Sea “indispensable” .
The UK foreign secretary said following EU rules after 2021 “just ain’t happening” and insisted it was wrong for the EU’s senior negotiator to claim that goods entering Northern Ireland and Great Britain would be subject to extra paperwork once Britain leaves the post-Brexit transition period.Europe lobs a few grenades of its own.
The Euros are wasting no time responding where they sense BoJo is most vulnerable - Scotland.
Donald Tusk, the former president of the European council, has said there would be widespread enthusiasm in the EU if Scotland applied to rejoin after independence.
In remarks that will boost Nicola Sturgeon’s campaign for a second referendum, Tusk told the BBC he had great sympathy with the desire of many Scots to rejoin the EU after Brexit.
“I want to stop myself from saying something too blunt. Sometimes I feel I am Scots. I’m very Scottish now, especially after Brexit,” he told BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show.
“Emotionally, I have no doubt everyone would be enthusiastic here, in Brussels and more widely in Europe, but still we have treaties and formalities. But if you ask me about our emotions, there’s a genuine feeling. You will witness only, I think, empathy.Ireland wants BoJo to grow up.
A clash in thinking over regulatory alignment between the UK and the EU is already shaping up to be a central sticking point, with the EU insisting on alignment in exchange for access to the single market and the UK threatening to throw up a customs wall around Britain.
[Irish prime minister, Leo] Varadkar called on the UK to tone down the “nationalist rhetoric” and said negotiations would get off to a better start if they did “not repeat some of the errors that were made in the last two and a half years”.
“Let’s not set such rigid red lines that makes it hard to come to an agreement and let’s tone down the kind of nationalistic rhetoric,” he told the BBC.
He said reports that British ambassadors were being instructed to sit away from EU ambassadors at international events was “silly”.
“I think it just comes across as a little bit petty. It’s kind of when you are in primary school and in secondary school and you get worried about who you can sit beside in class.Childish, to be sure, but there's a far darker side to England's Brexiteers.