Hardly a week goes by without confirming my suspicion that Brexit is revealing the extremism that hides beneath the UK’s reputation for calm reasonableness. But Prime Minister Boris Johnson has not yet used up his ability to shock.
The government’s announcement that it will violate the treaty Johnson himself won an election for and entered the country into only eight months ago is the international norm-exploding equivalent of last year’s unlawful prorogation of parliament. It is also deeply mendacious to claim that the EU withdrawal agreement and its Northern Ireland protocol was premised on a future relationship deal being agreed — it was, in fact, written precisely to cover the possibility that there may not be one — or that its consequences were unforeseen.
But it bears remembering how last year’s stand-off with parliament ended: with Johnson respecting the law (on both prorogation and a Brexit deadline extension) and conceding to EU demands for the withdrawal treaty while proclaiming a great negotiating victory.
What the man has done in the past seems the best guide to what he will do now. This is someone who wants power first, adulation second, and who prioritises being liked by those on whom his power depends most. That remains the ultra-Brexiter contingent of his party who,…