Jeremy Corbyn made waves recently when he released documents showing the NHS is currently on the table in discussions for a UK/US trade deal. Now the Labour leader has just done it again. He’s revealed details from a confidential government report on Brexit.
The revelations aren’t good news for Boris Johnson as they show that, internally, the government expect his Brexit deal will result in checks and tariffs between Great Britain and the north of Ireland. Johnson has previously insisted that no checks are necessary under his deal for goods entering Great Britain from the north of Ireland, and that it will keep “the whole of the UK together”. But, according to Corbyn, the documents state that the deal:
has the potential to separate Northern Ireland in practice from whole swathes of the UK’s internal market, meaning Northern Ireland will be symbolically separated from the rest of the union
As someone who attacks the Labour leader on the grounds he’ll break up the UK, and says he can ‘make the UK great again’, this is potentially ruinous for Johnson.
The revelations show that checks and tariffs will likely be part of any post-Brexit society under Johnson’s deal. And Corbyn said that the government “cannot rule out” checks for goods travelling from the north of Ireland to Great Britain. Meanwhile, regarding trade from the UK to the north of Ireland, the Labour leader asserted those checks will apply plus potentially “damaging tariffs”.
The revelations also indicate that the north of Ireland will suffer financially as a result. Corbyn said:
Let me remind you, Johnson said his deal was, I quote, “a great deal” for Northern Ireland. But look at page 8 of this report… for what the government really thinks… His deal will inflict huge economic damage on Northern Ireland. It will, I quote, be “highly disruptive to the Northern Irish economy”.
The documents also suggest that fraud could become a big issue, with the north of Ireland at risk of becoming “a back door into the GB market for the avoidance of import duties”. The documents further show that the north of Ireland isn’t the only country affected either. The Labour leader explained:
Page 9 of the confidential report reveals that Johnson’s damaging deal may have, quote again, “a significant effect” on the economies of Scotland and Wales. This is people’s livelihoods we’re talking about. This is why this government is hiding this information from the people of Wales, Scotland, and of Northern Ireland.
United we stand
Throughout the election campaign, Johnson has attacked Corbyn as someone who would ensure further referendums and potentially break up the union. His argument is based on an assumption that Labour couldn’t win a majority and would have to do a deal with the SNP, which would make a second Scottish independence referendum inevitable.
But these documents clearly show that a Conservative victory could very easily lead to more referendums and a break up of the union. Because there’s already enthusiasm for a north of Ireland referendum on independence from the UK. And a Brexit deal that ‘symbolically separates’ the north of Ireland from the UK will intensify calls for such a referendum to happen; a referendum that, incidentally, is guaranteed under the Good Friday Agreement:
if at any time it appears likely to him that a majority of those voting would express a wish that Northern Ireland should cease to be part of the United Kingdom and form part of a united Ireland
Being known as the ‘Get Brexit done and break up the UK’ option for PM challenges Johnson’s election strategy. Echoing Donald Trump, Johnson sells himself as someone who can re-energise our “great United Kingdom” and make it “the greatest place on earth”.
Meanwhile, it makes Corbyn’s promise of unity look all the more enticing. When revealing the Brexit documents, he argued:
At every stage throughout this campaign Boris Johnson has chosen to deepen divisions. … I start from a very different place. I believe a prime minister must talk to and listen to the whole country because we have to bring our divided country together. And if, as a result people accuse me of talking to both sides at once in the Brexit debate, then so be it. I’m proud to do that. Why would I only want to talk to half the country? I don’t want to live in half of a country.
Unlike Johnson’s plan, Labour’s Brexit proposals wouldn’t necessarily lead to disquiet in the north of Ireland because it would stay in a customs union with the EU and have a “close single market relationship”. That would mean no customs checks and tariffs are needed. Notably, Labour’s plan could also persuade Scottish voters to stay in the UK in any future referendum, with a hard Brexit being a major concern. A Labour government overall could help too, with Scottish people wanting no part of a “morally bankrupt” Johnson government.
Whether these revelations will resonate with people in England will be seen on election day. They surely will alarm people in the north of Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. But anyone who doesn’t want Brexit to conclude with England being left on its lonesome should pay close attention. Because these documents prove that, under Johnson’s deal, that’s where we’d plausibly be heading.
Featured image via Guardian News/YouTube
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