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Andrew Adonis: 'Don't panic - Boris Johnson is the last throw of the Brexit dice'

The former adviser to Tony Blair is speaking about Brexit at the IIEA in Dublin today.

Andrew Adonis speaks during the Politics Festival, at King's Place in London.
Andrew Adonis speaks during the Politics Festival, at King's Place in London.
Image: Empics Entertainment

LORD ANDREW ADONIS has said that Boris Johnson’s election as leader of the Conservatives and the next British Prime Minister will be “the last throw of the Brexit dice”.

Ahead of a talk entitled ‘Why Brexit can still be stopped’ he’s to give at the Institute of International and European Affairs in Dublin today at 1pm, the Labour politician spoke to TheJournal.ie about Boris Johnson, the backstop and Northern Ireland.

So, what does he want to tell Irish people?

“My big message is don’t panic, Boris Johnson [being elected as Prime Minister] is the last throw of the Brexit dice and it’s almost inconceivable that it’s going to be a double-six.”

A double-six roll in this metaphor, according to Adonis, is scrapping Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement and starting fresh negotiations with the EU which don’t involve the Irish backstop or having to make any substantial ‘divorce’ payments.

The EU has said previously that it will not begin negotiating a free trade deal until three key issues are secured with the UK: the divorce bill (which stands at £39 billion in the Withdrawal Agreement); EU citizens rights, and the Northern Ireland border.

Adonis said that Johnson becoming Prime Minister wouldn’t change the options available: there’s still no majority in the House of Commons for a no-deal Brexit, which would necessitate a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.

“Boris is a showman seeking to win the Conservatives over… It’s pure fantasy otherwise, the Tory grassroots [are the ones most] in favour of Brexit.”

On the issue of the backstop, Adonis said that “it’s entirely a matter for Britain whether it applies to Northern Ireland or just Ireland”.

The backstop ensures that if a future trade deal means there are widely different customs rules and standards, that Northern Ireland’s regulations will be in line with the EU’s, ensuring there is no need for checks at the border.

In order to ensure the DUP and unionists didn’t feel the union was under threat because of this, May decided to extend the backstop to the whole of the UK.

“Theresa May’s decision to extend the backstop to make it UK-wide worsened [her situation],” Adonis said.

So should the backstop be applied to just Northern Ireland again, which the Taoiseach said this week was an option that was “always on the table”?

That brings an equal and opposite problem with the DUP and unionists more broadly, as it could mean a border down the Irish Sea.

He said that this week’s vote compelling Parliament to sit in October, was a “crucially important development”as “it will almost certainly rule out a no-deal”.

“We will end up with a further extension in October and possibly a referendum or election after that.”

In conclusion to his speech today, Adonis advised the Irish government in dealing with the next Prime Minister:

Be totally polite and courteous to Prime Minister Johnson, but utterly uncompromising. That way, we’ll see out this Brexit mess together.

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