Can British PM Boris Johnson deliver a deal?
The Heat

The new British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, campaigned for Brexit in 2016 and now has the mission to deliver it. It is a task that is not easy for many reasons. Among them, there is the question of what to do with the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

A withdrawal agreement with the EU leaving a soft border there was shot down three times by the British parliament, leading to the resignation of Prime Minister Theresa May.

The new Prime Minister wants to renegotiate but has also said he’s willing to face a ‘hard’ Brexit, if necessary, leaving the European Union without a deal.

With the deadline about three months away, can Boris Johnson get a better deal?

Joe Twyman, a co-founder and director of Deltapoll, a public opinion research firm, says that the two sides hold different views. People who are responsible for the negotiations on the European side say that there isn’t a better deal, and Britain has to decide whether it is going to take it or leave it, while Boris Johnson and his team believe that a better deal is possible and Britain will do everything they can do to pursue that deal, however, if circumstances don’t move in their favor, then they are willing to leave without a deal.

Twyman thinks the reality is probably somewhere in between the two. As approaching the deadline of October 31, some adjustments to the existing deal will be possible. The question is, will that be enough then to satisfy Boris Johnson and his government? Most importantly, will that be enough to get the deal through the House of Commons?

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson presides over his first Cabinet meeting in London, England, UK, July 25, 2019. /VCG Photo

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson presides over his first Cabinet meeting in London, England, UK, July 25, 2019. /VCG Photo

Alan Wager, a research associate at the UK in a Changing Europe Initiative at London’s King College has a more pessimistic view. He thinks that the politics on the EU side is problematic and it would be almost impossible for the EU to give up the "backstop" to enable a soft border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Wager thinks that there would be a significant amount of disruption to the European Union if there is a No Deal Brexit. “It is going to weigh on the minds of those European leaders as they go to this European Council in mid-October, and make the decision about whether or not to potentially push through with No Deal. These countries, particularly France, Germany, and the Netherlands are going to be affected economically by No Deal, and are already in a deteriorating economic state at the moment,” says Wager.

Philip Foster, the vice-chairman of the Campaign for an Independent Britain, thinks that it is very unlikely that an agreement is going to be established. From his understanding, the idea that the UK will re-establish a border has never been suggested. It will be the Republic of Ireland that will have to establish a border if they choose to. He is also not positive about extending the deadline one more time. “I think it would cause enormous trouble, and I don’t think Boris would go for that,” says Foster.

Ian Black, a visiting senior fellow at the London School of Economics, doesn’t think that there will be some kind of deal that would be acceptable for both sides.

According to Black, the 27 leaders have often hinted at their readiness to look at the future relationship, but they have firmly insisted that they will not deviate from the withdrawal agreement as negotiated by Teresa May. Another issue is the integrity of the UK, the Northern Ireland border, and the claim by the Leave campaign led by Boris Johnson that Britain would be "seizing back control" from the EU.

“I don’t think that is possible, given the current standoff and given the interests of the EU in protecting the status quo, not allowing Britain to have its cake and eat it too,” says Black.

The Heat with Anand Naidoo is a 30-minute political talk show on CGTN. It airs weekdays at 7:00 a.m. BJT and 6:00 p.m. Eastern in the United States

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