First came the Brexit vote in June 2016. Then Cameron went. Then Theresa and Trump came. Then Theresa went. Then Boris came. Then Covid-19 came. Then Boris’ credibility in the eyes of millions of people went. It sounds like a fashion buyer working at Desigual, or a poorly worded song by Drake, however this is roughly how things have been since that infamous month of June 2016: the beginning of the end.
Born in Italy, raised in London, settled in Manchester. I graduated in International Relations and Arabic but I am now a developer. Not sure about what I am doing but there will always be a book in my bag and a passport in my hand.
Brexit has been the topic of multiple conversations throughout these past four years. You could hear about it everywhere, from bus stops to Universities’ halls, from the pub around the station to a cozy afternoon tearoom by the beach with the family. Everyone has held and still holds different opinions on the topic, some people are still proud of their decision to either vote Leave or Remain; whereas many others have changed their mind, welcoming the flow of updated news on the topic but also the utter disgrace that has been the management of the whole UK-EU and UK-world international relations. The actual date of Brexit has been pushed back more times that one can count, and this is only one of the numerous signs that have damaged the country and the reputation of the Government.
When Boris Johnson got elected, people had fun highlighting how the Prime Minister and Trump shared similar features: a very messy hairstyle, the same way of minimizing issues, and the utmost inability to manage a country. With the pandemic still around, the Brexit issue might not have been in the spotlight for a while, however the MPs have recently taken very important decisions that will have a long-lasting effect on the country and both its international and regional relations. The Brexit bill (called withdrawal agreement, or Internal Market bill) which won an initial vote of 340 to 236 thanks to the Conservative majority, has created a lot of debate inside and outside Britain. In brief and unfortunately in all seriousness, the bill sees Northern Ireland sticking to some EU rules for a period after Brexit only for it to end up abiding laws set by the British Parliament afterward, without a specific and detailed timeline as of yet. Johnson’s view is for the short term, as a hard border between the two contested regions (Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland) is feared. Others are already shouting that this is a pure and clear breach of international law.
For a legally binding treaty, it is extremely frowned upon when one side of the agreement unilaterally decides to amend some parts of it, and under many circumstances it is indeed illegal. Even if the bill is aimed at regulating internal market, the repercussions will likely have an international impact, too. As Kim Darroch, the former British Ambassador to the United States, says during an interview: “It is the most astonishing thing that I can recall through my entire public service career: a minister said we are knowingly breaking international law”. There is animosity between the diplomat and the Prime Minister. When the former was asked to resign due to his accounts of the Trump administration, which he saw as a dysfunctional bunch of corrupted incompetents, Johnson never stood up for him and failed to offer any support. However, the worries on Darroch’s minds are justified. Even if Trump were to be re-elected, the diplomat strongly believes that if and when the bill gets implemented, the handling of the internal situation will put at great risk the deal between the United States and the United Kingdom, which Johnson desperately needs.
Multiple articles concerning the aforementioned US-UK deal have been published. In the case of a Biden victory, his foreign policy advisor Antony Blinken has already declared that anything harming the Good Friday Agreement (that is the agreement to cease the fire between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic) would result in weakening the relationship between these two major countries. A more open and dynamic economy is on everyone’s mind but avoiding the resume of violence is so much more important on many levels. Four American politicians, belonging to the House of Representatives, rushed to pen a letter, addressed to the Prime Minister, in which they outlined how the bilateral US-UK relationship will be severely damaged if the peace between Ireland and Northern Ireland is somehow put at risk. Although the four politicians in question represent a significant number of Irish citizens, Ireland as a country and the Irish as a people have had a strong influence on American politics for decades. Many Americans proudly identify themselves as Irish in national censuses, Irish leadership influences American politics on a daily basis, and the bottom line is that the power of the Irish American lobby stationed out of Washington, DC is just too important for Boris Johnson to mess around with. Not only is the Government putting at risk internal affairs, but it is also now explicitly trying to undermine the relationship with one of our most historically renowned allies.
It is extremely ironic what Downing Street’s three main parts of the bill claim: to protect the sovereignty of the United Kingdom, to provide certainty for business and to preserve the commitment to the people of Northern Ireland. How exactly these three goals can be achieved by defying previous commitments, jeopardizing the relationships with multiple state actors and more than likely the Good Friday Agreement, nobody knows. Or perhaps someone does. Dominic Rabb, who wore many hats and failed in many tasks, has made his way to the American capital to reassure politicians about the Brexit bill. His main duty will be to ensure that the Internal Market bill will not harm in any way the agreement between Northern Ireland and Ireland. In fact, should that be the case, Nancy Pelosi’s words are clear: “[there would be] absolutely no chance of a US-UK agreement passing the Congress”. Only time can really tell us what will happen! Maybe Brexit will not even happen at the end of the year, maybe Boris Johnson will leg it before anything else is signed, or maybe under Johnson’s watch we will witness a triple defeat: a no-deal Brexit, violence restarting in Ireland, and severed ties with the United States.