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Political experts who have analysed his plans for Northern Ireland say it “undermines the sovereignty of the UK” – risking fury for Brexiteers. On June 23, 2016, the UK voted to leave the EU by 52 percent to 48 percent in one of the most significant referendum results in British political history. Theresa May, who took over from David Cameron as Prime Minister following the referendum, bowed to huge pressure in May 2019 and resigned as MPs refused to vote her much criticised Brexit agreement with EU through Parliament.
She was quickly replaced by Brexiteer Boris Johnson, who immediately vowed to take a strong stance with Brussels negotiators and strike a free trade agreement with a number of changes that was favourable to Britain and did not give up any rights to the continental trading bloc.
The Prime Minister agreed a deal with the EU, and subsequently delivered on his general election promise to “get Brexit done” by January 31 as it was voted through Parliament following the Tories’ huge 80-seat majority win.
But negotiations on a post-Brexit trade deal with the EU have repeatedly stalled, with both sides refusing to give ground on a number of red lines, including fisheries, state aid and the EU’s level-playing field rules and regulations.
Mr Johnson is also attempting to override key parts of his withdrawal agreement with the EU, a move that would subsequently break international law, sparking fury throughout Westminster and Brussels, while significantly increasing the probability of a no deal Brexit at the end of the transition period on December 31.
Speaking to Express.co.uk ahead of the ninth round of talks between the UK and EU in Brussels next week, Ben Harris-Quinney, chairman of the Bow Group think tank said: “The Brexit deals struck by Boris Johnson and Theresa May barely differ at all.
“The Prime Minister has subsequently tried to beef it up with things like the Internal Market Bill but there remain contentious issues with the Northern Irish border and the extent to which the EU continues to have judicial and regulatory control over our market.”
Mr Harris-Quinney also previously told this website the Prime Minister had “managed to successfully spin” his deal as one that Brexiteers would like, but in reality “it won’t”.
He said: “Despite huge fanfare, Boris’ proposed deal barely differed at all from May’s.
“He managed to successfully spin that it would lead to a much better outcome for Brexiteers, but now the crunch is coming it seems apparent it won’t.
“The British public prefer dangerous freedom over peaceful servitude, and most Brexiteers would accept a worse economic outcome if it means being able to control our own borders and make our own laws.
“Therefore reaching these requirements should be this Government’s first priority, regardless of short term economic impact.
“There is no reason not to continue to push for a deal that satisfies the objectives of Brexit, but all indications at this time suggest it won’t be possible and only a no deal outcome will do so.”
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Alistair Jones, associate professor in politics and university teacher fellow at De Montfort University in Leicester, said the key difference between Mr Johnson’s agreement and that of Mrs May is around the Irish border, where the current Prime Minister dropped the backstop and agreed to Northern Ireland remaining in the EU’s single market and still the UK.
But he argued Mr Johnson has “got bored” with the ongoing talks and after he managed to deliver Brexit on January 31 and get the legislation passed through Parliament, it was a case of “job done” for the Prime Minister – even before trade talks with the EU began.
Crucially, Professor Jones also cites a report produced by the House of Commons library that says “only two Articles in the main withdrawal agreement have changed from the November 2018 text, and the changes are minor”.
He told this website: “Johnson has got bored with the talks. He promised to get Brexit done, and won a general election on that pledge.
“The legislation was passed through Parliament. In his eyes, job done. The actual detail required in all of this was not his concern. The UK has left the EU and the transition period will end on 31 December 2020.
“The House of Commons library has produced a report, which says that “only two Articles in the main Withdrawal Agreement have changed from the November 2018 text, and the changes are minor”. These are Northern Ireland-Ireland related.
“Everything else is the same: divorce bill (£33 billion over c.40 years); Gibraltar; citizen’s rights; Joint Committee to oversee the arrangements; and dispute settlements.
“Johnson promised to keep the Union as one. His Northern Ireland plan fails to do this. To some Brexiteers, this undermines the sovereignty of the UK.”
Best for Britain, which launched in April 2017 with the aim of stopping Brexit and continuing the UK’s membership of the EU, has accused Mr Johnson of not fulfilling his Brexit promises to the British public, whether they voted Leave or Remain in the 2016 referendum.
The group told Exrpess.co.uk: “On both sides of the fence, plenty of people will be wondering what happened to the comprehensive trade deal that Johnson promised last year.
“Best for Britain’s polling and focus groups show that those who voted Conservative at the last election, and voted to leave in 2016, expect the PM to keep his promise on delivering a comprehensive deal.
“And because coronavirus was unexpected, they’re happy to give him more time to negotiate it – the British people are pragmatic not dogmatic.”
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