But this is still in effect a customs border in the Irish Sea, with a different regime between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK – albeit with checks happening in firms’ warehouses, at ports or on ferries. That’s exactly what the DUP, which props up May’s government, says it cannot abide. It’ll take quite the feat of de-dramatisation to convince it.
Meanwhile, Johnson is right to attack the prime minister’s Chequers proposal for turning us into rule-takers. He says in the Telegraph that this would be the “first time since 1066 our leaders were deliberately acquiescing in foreign rule”. This won’t just bother the former foreign secretary. It will stick in the craw of patriotic pro-Europeans too.
However, Johnson’s assertion that naive Brexiters such as himself were “taken in” by the December deal on Ireland, which he agreed to as a cabinet minister, is a bit rich. It looks more like he wasn’t on top of the detail.
The other problem Johnson has is that his own “solution” – which involves checking goods away from the border – will not work. May was right when she told the BBC: “You don’t solve the issue of no hard border by having a hard border 20km inside Ireland.” That’s still a hard border, with physical customs infrastructure – exactly what everyone has been trying to avoid to maintain Irish peace.
Given the bankruptcy of what hardline Brexiters have to offer, May says it’s either her deal or no deal. But of course there is a third way. Give the decision back to the UK public. If they don’t want to choose between either being rule-taker or jeopardising peace in Ireland, they should be given the chance to say so.