Boris Johnson is provoking
a punch-up to save his own skin,
says Roger Ratcliffe

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I doubt they are talking much about the Northern Ireland Protocol in Wakefield, where a tough by-election* for the Conservatives takes place this week. Actually, I’d be surprised if the protocol is a hot topic for most people despite frequent mentions on TV and radio.

In Wakefield, where Labour hopes to win back one of the Red Wall seats it lost to the Tories in 2019, they are more concerned about whether the local rugby league club Wakefield Trinity can survive in the Super League. Elsewhere, minds are focused on the cost-of-living crisis, A&E waiting times, war in Ukraine, airport travel chaos, the bombshell return of Wendy Crozier to Corrie… add your own current preoccupation here.

But I have a feeling that sooner or later the Northern Ireland Protocol will be a serious talking point. People may not concern themselves with the minutiae of what Johnson agreed with the EU in relation to Northern Ireland, the “oven-ready deal” that enabled him to ”Get Brexit Done”. Nor will they pore over the details of those proposed red and green lanes for goods entering Northern Ireland from the UK mainland that contravene the international treaty signed by Johnson. No, when the EU takes legal action in response to the UK’s rewriting of the protocol, and ultimately is left with no choice but to place prohibitive tariffs on British goods destined for Europe – a “trade war” in newspaper headline parlance – the words Northern Ireland Protocol will be forgotten. They will boil down to just one word – Brexit.

This is what I believe the unscrupulous Johnson and his spineless cabinet lackeys have intended all along – a major punch-up with Brussels before the next general election, never mind the huge damage to our global reputation or the consequences for Northern Ireland peace. Because while the economy is predicted to take a serious nosedive, meaning punitive electoral consequences for the Tories, Brexit is the only issue Johnson can
rely on for support.

Of course, Labour has no choice but to condemn him for wilfully breaking international law, and rightly so. This will allow the Tories to cast Keir Starmer as a Brussels yes man, playing the villain to Johnson’s hero. And it will swing politics in this country right back to the 2016 referendum, with Johnson dusting off his “Take Back Control” slogan.

Would Johnson – still not out of the Partygate woods – cynically trash a treaty he signed just to improve his chances of staying in power? To answer that I’ll ask another question. Would Donald Trump incite the storming of the US Capitol to stay in the White House? I don’t know about you but I’ve always viewed Johnson and Trump as clones. And so yes, Johnson is a wannabe dictator who will only be removed from Downing Street with his fingernails clawing down that £800 a roll wallpaper.

Add to this the despicable decision to fly cross-Channel asylum seekers 6,000 miles to Rwanda, which I believe has the single purpose of provoking a conflict with the European Court of Human Rights.

Along with rewriting the Northern Ireland Protocol, it seems to me that the ground is being prepared for a rerun of the 2019 Brexit general election, perhaps as early as the autumn: a last throw of the dice for desperate, one-trick-pony Johnson.

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