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Bizarre Boris at Biarritz while pressing on towards hard-landing Brexit

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Boris Johnson and Donald Trump at G7 - two of the most powerful leaders of the free world (Screenshot via YouTube)

One clear point to make about the bizarre British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, on leaving Europe is that he definitely intends to do it.

There remains much talk about the impossibility or danger of this without a “deal” on terms of severance — a too-sudden break after 46 years of increasing integration, writes Dr Lee Duffield.

THE WESTMINSTER PARLIAMENT voted, in July, expressly against leaving Europe without such a deal, a group of Conservative Government members helping to make up the numbers.

The move might, procedurally, stop the Prime Minister shutting down Parliament for a time and pushing through his unnegotiated, no-deal secession from the European Union.

He would be stalling until the officially set date, 31 October.

HARD LANDING “BREXIT” VERY POSSIBLE

As long as he has a majority in Parliament for actually staying in Government– at last count it was a majority of one – then he may just manage it.

Members of the Tory Party might abhor the “hard landing” option for secession, but all in all, they can be counted on to abhor losing office even more.

Voting tactically to try and stop a no-deal “Brexit” is one thing, voting out the Government would be quite another.

It is the key premise of conservative government, that to be in power is the only natural order of things and being “out” is like being in a national crisis.

That would scotch another idea being mooted, that members drawn from all parties might install a caretaker Prime Minister, to hold fresh elections or even a fresh referendum on Europe.

WHAT DOES THE MAN WANT?

So, Boris Johnson stands to remain as PM right up to that 31 October moment and then let loose the rude divorce — which he would think is alright.

It must be remembered that Boris Johnson, while at the psychological level a leader type, is also a radical of the Right wing, a reactionary politician orientated towards the past.

He is a user, bender and distorter of the ruinous financial ideology of neoliberalism, where it stands for reckless no-rules economic management, plus drastically cuts taxation for corporations and the most wealthy.

In the mind of an ideologue, to get such a program going might be worth putting the country through a great recession.

The thrust is to empower the privileged and powerful; definitely no time for unions, no truck with social solidarity of that sort — therefore very bad relations on that side.

COSTS OF BREAKING UP

The European Union was built to mobilise resources and confer advantages, like the edge enjoyed by London as a great financial centre, trading freely in the single market 500-million strong.

Those great advantages would be very quickly gone.

England and its reluctant “first empire” appendages – Scotland, Ulster and Wales – would be free to try and get separate trade deals with the United States, Australia and others.

But a lot would depend on what they might have to offer.

Perhaps they might follow the Chinese route and rent out their workforce to the world at skinflint prices.

In Australian consciousness, it might be back to the days of the rite-of-passage working holiday in poor old England (up to their accession to the European Community in 1973): a picturesque country with indifferent “cuisine”, proud, keen on cricket and often good at it, low pay, alright for a few years’ visit, crook for their own workers, but brilliant for their “dukies and duchesses” and Borises of various kinds.

DEAL-MAKING: STILL STUCK ON THE IRISH BORDER

This week, Prime Minister Johnson has done the rounds of European leaders, speaking especially with Angela Merkel of Germany, Emmanuel Macron of France and Leo Varadkar, the Irish Taoiseach.

If they had studied the man, they would judge him fully prepared to walk out in October, with economic disruption for their countries as well as his own. At the same time, they looked unwilling, or unable to move on principles already laid out.

The talks once more focused on the constant problem of the Northern Ireland border. He wanted an agreement written into the core of the main deal, in which somehow the United Kingdom would not have a policed international frontier within its own borders. They wished that such a settlement might be achieved, but still said it should just be annexed to the main deal already formally made by the 28 EU countries and asked if he had any new proposals.

A letter circulated by Johnson to the other EU leaders, wanting a settlement, did not contain such fresh proposals. It left heads of the executive body, the European Commission, unimpressed; according to the well-informed Politico news service at Brussels on 19 August.

It quoted one EU diplomat:

“It’s clear from the letter that renegotiation is the last thing the British government wants.”

A senior French official said:

“It’s a joke.”

The European executives, in general, have been unchanging right through about keeping the deal that was made. They are ending their set terms of office this year, but not before the October deadline for “Brexit”, so a change of personnel in Brussels is not considered likely to have any effect.

THIS WEEK AT BIARRITZ

At the Group of Seven economic summit in Biarritz, the Heads of Government were concerned about the sluggish world economy. Their worries were being exacerbated by the policy fixations of the two weird blokes at the table, both on a reactionary tangent: Boris Johnson holding out for a “no-deal Brexit” if need be, to suit his purposes, while Donald Trump of the United States pursued his destabilising trade war with China.

On the sidelines, the Australian Government was one of four outsiders invited to the G7 this time. Prime Minister Scott Morrison canvassed support for new controls to stop live streaming of terrorist attacks. That might help with an international attack on the problem launched in Paris last May by the New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Adern, set back by reluctance on the part of Trump to join in.

A terrifying side issue was being provided by another member of the club of reactionary “strong leaders”, one Jair Bolsonaro, the recently sworn-in (as of 1 January) President of Brazil. A devotee of the “free market”, he has signalled to would-be pastoralists and mining companies that protection of the Amazon forests will be pulled back.

The forests have been burning and his eager clients have been accused of starting the crisis. He says it is fake news, but sent the army to help with firefighting. Macron in Paris said he would bring up the destruction by fire, with its crisis impacts on global atmosphere, for priority attention at the G7. Not all of them will care.

Media editor Dr Lee Duffield is a former ABC foreign correspondent, political journalist and academic.

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