Analysis Breaking News

Breaking: Irish EU commissioner reports ‘movement’ as Johnson caves on NI ‘divergence’

Johnson’s retreat would put Northern Ireland on separate footing to UK – effectively ‘soft border’ in Irish Sea – Johnson meeting Arlene Foster now
Ireland’s EU Commissioner Phil Hogan

Irish EU Commissioner Phil Hogan has reported “movement” in the UK’s Brexit negotiations – but only after Boris Johnson caved in on ‘regulatory divergence’ in Northern Ireland, a move likely to infuriate the Tories’ DUP allies.

Some of the ‘movement’ is extremely woolly and promise-based, with Hogan saying that problems around the Northern Irish ‘backstop’ could be ‘improved upon’ and that the Good Friday Agreement might provide a guide on the way the backstop operated.

But Hogan also revealed that Boris Johnson had caved in to EU demands during talks with Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar yesterday – by conceding that Northern Ireland could operate on different rules to the rest of the UK:

I also note that the British prime minister has moved away from his position…where he’s now prepared to look at divergence of certain rules and regulations on the island of ireland vis-a-vis the United Kingdom.

The effect of such ‘divergence’ would be to create a ‘soft’ border around the whole island of Ireland, with Northern Ireland inside an effective customs union, isolated from the rest of the UK outside. This is unlikely to go down well with DUP leader Arlene Foster, whose red line has always been that Northern Ireland must remain on the same basis as the rest of the UK.

Hogan also made it clear that Johnson’s capitulation over Ireland only gains him a little – and leaves him a long way from an actual deal – and warned that it would be months before negotiations on a UK-EU trade deal could even start:

The UK political system seems to be under the misplaced notion that actually if you crash out of the European Union you have dealt with all the issues.

In fact the work only starts again, like… citizen’s rights, in relation to payments to the EU, in relation to the GFA and the island of Ireland issues. The issues remain.

…It could take six to eight months before all member states have come to a conclusion about the mandate for an EU-UK Free Trade Agreement.


For all his posturing Johnson is proving as weak as Theresa May was – and the realisation may go a long way to explaining his bizarre behaviour at his post-talks press conference with Leo Varadkar yesterday, which went unreported by almost all the UK’s media.

His climbdown makes a mockery of his ‘tough guy’ act. His anti-EU base is unlikely to be impressed – and his erstwhile DUP allies might just be learning what the Left always knew.

Never trust a Tory.

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    1. Over-optimistic analysis, Skwawkie. As I, and many others, long predicted, Johnson’s personal agenda over opposing May’s Brexit Deal was always purely to get rid of May and insert himself in his self-perceived, pre-destined, position of UK PM. Now he has achieved that he will do whatever deal is required to get a very May-style Brexit Leave deal through with the Irish and the Commission. He will claim some waffly form of words added to the Withdrawal Agreement on the Iris backstop as “victory” , and then go back to Parliament with that very May-style Deal before the 31st. and with so many, up to 31, Labour Heartland Labour MPs now in a panic at the prospect of losing heir seats see Stephen Kinnock in recent days) , he may well get the ‘new’ deal through. OK, he’ll have to dump the Tory ERG nutters, and the DUP won’t be happy.

      But Johnson wants to call an election ASAP ,on the basis of his long bullshit promise list of post Austerity re-funding of he NHS, police and schools, etc, AND being ‘the man who honoured the 2016 Referendum democratic mandate to Leave ‘, and doesn’t need the DUP’s votes anymore in that interregnum.

      If the Johnson wheeze strategy works, and it could indeed, a Johnson-led Tory Party, buoyed up on delivering Brexit and all those huge new spending promises, could well WIN a General Election. And Labour will be entering that Election with its own list of big spending promises – no longer dwarfing the 2017 Election Tory continuing Austerity agenda, and with a position on Brexit which will , if Johnson HAS reached a deal, by then, be confused to say the least to the Labour voters in our heartlands !

      Johnson is gambling hard, and may totally blow it, but Labour’s now ever-hardening Remain stance is just what Johnson and his team have wanted, to at least give the Brexit Party the chance to split the Labour vote in our heartlands, and in some cases, even enable them, or the Tories the chance to win Labour heartland seats, The game is far from over – and the rumoured “deal with the EU Irish Commissioner” is potentially a key part of an escape route – to election victory for Johnson.

    2. Latest on this is that he has back peddled on this and assured the DUP it won’t happen. Not that that means much. Boris Johnson’s word cannot be taken so if divergence suits Boris Johnson’agenda then divergence it will be. If it doesn’t, it won’t.
      However I genuinely think Johnson wants a no deal Brexit following which he intends to do a Tony Blair and ride off into the sunset with his billionaire cronies and make a fortune.He will then scapegoat the DUP and blame their opposition to divergence for his failure to secure a deal.

      1. Smartboy The good Friday agreement is a legaly binding agreement with united nations backing.The Torys have used Ulster as a political pawn for centurys…..This is the country were gerrymandering was invented…..Not for me to heap praise on Tony Blair….but he and mo mowlem sweat blood for a solution for the problem of British colonialism in Ireland……The Labour party under Blair had solved the unsolvable….and Teresa May smashed it by cynically exploiting the lives of the Irish for political purpose…..Blood could be spilt…and Britain and the Tory party will have to answer to the international courts of why ?….This little manouver is just as dangerous as anything in the Balkans and someone…..Teresa May will have to answer to the courts if the Loyalists start lighting the bonfires again…..A

      2. Joseph
        In my opinion Boris Johnson is a care for nobody /nothing and would not let a little thing like an international peace treaty stand in the way of his own best interests and agenda. He’ll do whats best for himself. Tony Blair is of the same ilk – they are brothers under the skin.
        I don’t think there is any possibility of a return to bloodshed in Northern Ireland.However you could be right and if you are that would be a tragedy for all the people who have been trying to build bridges and work together for the good of all over the last 20 or so years

  1. Arlene’ll definitely wring another billion out of him not to make a fuss though…

  2. Johnson denying the reports. Which means they’re probably true.

    What is emphasized underneath this ridiculous dance is the whole, futile waste of time that is Brexit. Stupidity on stilts.

    1. RH what the Torys are unleashing by smashing the good Friday agreement is far more important long term than Brexit….We can negotiate with Europe…..try negotiating with a group straight out of the 1600S history books….I don’t think Arlene would be imppresed with you….and you can take that as flattery or not?

  3. He will not please the DUP with this latest wheeze who will see it as a forerunner to a united Ireland, they will not support this in any way, Ireland is a problem nobody is taking seriously, put in a border of whatever form and the Nationalist community can see the steps toward unity with the free state shutting in their face which will undoubtedly end in violence and on the the other hand the Unionists seeing their county reduced to puppet of Dublin which will also end in violence. Brexit has opened a box that cannot be closed, I have family and friends in the Province and I do worry that Déjà Vu is their future

    1. Tc Liverpool….I fully agree and the Torys should be made to pay for smashing the good Friday agreement that the Labour party brokered….and the thought of king Billy Carson and the mobalisation of a loyalist militia does not bare thinking of.Once again Loyalists used as Tory party pawns…..there are far bigger problems than brexit being unleashed

  4. If true and able to deliver a softer brexit than no-deal, this is EXCELLENT news for Labour and terrible for the Conservative and UNIONIST party.

    It makes brexit less of a heated issue (still not a good one), and will allow Labour to escalate capitalist haemorrhage and the Conservatives’ political choice about it, AUSTERITY. Moreover the Referendum to undo the damage of the previous one is already a key part of our next manifesto, so even convinced leave-voting people will not use brexit as a reason NOT to vote Labour.

    I strongly believe that many people harmed by AUSTERITY mis-chose ‘leave’ in 2016 and so this is a clever means to affirm this.

  5. History repeats…..and unionists have never realised that they are trapped in a time warp…..A garrison of British imperialism trapped in an Ireland that as left them behind and the British establishment that finds them an embarrassing mistake……Ireland and Ulster are not a province but one Republic…..The Irish have thrown off British colonialism and I do not envy any PM having to sort out a mistake of narrow bigoted colonial rule…….The last bastion of Empire coming back to haunt all of us…..Ulster the jewel of Ireland’s heart….trapped in the 1600S and a political pawn for hundreds of years…..The unionists population have never assimalated into the reality of living on the Island of Ireland…but that’s the only route left.They have nothing to fear from a secular modern Irish republic……welcome home!

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