The U.K. is being offered a false choice in the Brexit talks between “two exquisitely embarrassing varieties of humiliation” that should both be rejected, according to former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.
Writing in his weekly Telegraph column, Johnson said that a putative agreement by U.K. negotiators for Britain to remain in a customs territory with the EU until the future relationship with the bloc is finalized would be a “catastrophe.”
“It means that for trading purposes the U.K. is simply conceived of as part of EU territory, as though it were a departement of France. We will be outside the EU but run by the EU,” wrote Johnson.
He said the talks had entered a “moment of crisis” and that the EU was treating the U.K. with “naked contempt.”
Johnson said the problem stemmed from the U.K. agreeing to the Irish “backstop” last December — a legal guarantee to prevent a hard border in Northern Ireland. He had been in government at the time and said he expressed reservations, although he remained in the government until his eventual resignation in July.
“We were told that it was just a form of words; we were told that it was merely temporary; we were told that these were redundant phrases that would never be invoked,” wrote Johnson. “As it is, that Irish backstop has been turned into the means of frustrating Brexit, because the alternative is even worse.”