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The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Brexit now! Never mind about a “good deal”!

by New Worker correspondent

BORIS JOHNSON flies to Brussels this week for last minute talks to end the deadlock over the Brexit departure terms and agree a new trade deal with the European Union. Brexit divorce talks began when the UK left the EU on 31st January, but they’ve stalled on a number of key issues including British fishing rights and the maintenance of the open border between British-occupied Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, which remains within the European bloc.

Johnson was upbeat in Parliament, telling MPs that “a good deal is still there to be done” – a view also held by the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel. “There is still the chance of an agreement,” the German leader said. “We are continuing to work on it, but we are also prepared for conditions which we cannot accept.” But veteran Brexiteer Nigel Farage fears it will only come about by caving in to EU demands and selling out on UK fishing rights.

Boris Johnson’s last-minute talks with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will focus on reaching agreement on fishing rights, business competition rules and how a post-Brexit trading deal will be regulated. If there is no agreement, border checks and taxes will be introduced for goods travelling between the UK and the EU. The Remainers claim this “no deal” solution will plunge the already pandemic-weakened economy into chaos and send prices soaring on the high street.

Johnson thought he could off-set the Treaty of Rome with a free-trade agreement with the USA. But dreams of a new ‘Treaty of Washington’ died with Donald Trump’s defeat in the US presidential elections last month. Johnson’s government was ill-prepared to deal with the incoming Biden administration’s insistence on upholding the Good Friday Agreement that ended the guerrilla war with the IRA and allowed people living on either side to travel freely without security checkpoints between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Johnson initially tried to ignore the vibes coming from his new master across the Atlantic but reality has now sunk in. He’s now dropped plans to override sections of the EU exit agreement signed last year, which would potentially have broken international law. And this week the UK and EU reached an agreement on specific trade arrangements for Northern Ireland, including the implementation of a new Irish Sea border and post-Brexit border checks and trading rules for Northern Ireland.

Remainer hopes now rest on an unlikely extension of the transition period beyond 31st December. The Johnson government has repeatedly said this was not an option, although somewhat disturbingly a junior minister didn’t rule out the possibility when talking to Sky News last week. Environment secretary George Eustice said it was “always possible” to extend negotiations, and that the UK’s chief negotiator David Frost has always been clear he would persevere with talks if there was a likely satisfactory outcome.

Meanwhile Nigel Farage has warned Johnson against “caving in” to the EU’s demands. Farage thinks the likelihood of agreeing on a Brexit deal is “quite high” as both sides continue crunch talks. But he fears accord will come at a high price – accepting Brussels’ terms on fishing rights and accepting that some EU laws will still remain in place after the transition period ends at the end of the month. Although the former Brexit Party leader is largely a spent force in British politics these days, he still carries some clout amongst the Tory Brexit rank-and-file.