Belfast Telegraph

Suzanne Breen: If Brussels and Dublin were exasperated, Boris Johnson felt the love in Manchester

Boris Johnson’s speech was gag-heavy (Danny Lawson/PA)
Boris Johnson’s speech was gag-heavy (Danny Lawson/PA)
Suzanne Breen

By Suzanne Breen

His speech to the Tory conference was vintage Boris Johnson - a simple message relayed in language you don’t need to look up in a dictionary.

Brexiteers were ecstatic. The Prime Minister is making Brussels a take-it-or-leave it offer and won’t be begging for an extension. If the EU doesn’t like it, they face no deal.

There was plenty to make the DUP happy too. The UK would be leaving the EU “whole and entire”, he told the conference.

The controversial backstop was dead and buried. There would be no customs checks near the border.

So how is he going to pull it all off? Johnson spoke about Stormont’s consent to any regulatory alignment being vital.

But this plan has already been dismissed as unworkable. The Assembly hasn’t sat for almost 1,000 days. Even if it was in session, parallel consent means 40% nationalist and 40% unionist support for EU regulatory alignment would be needed in the chamber – likely an impossible task.

Johnson is expected to detail the Stormont lock proposal in a paper to be released imminently.

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Crucially, it will state that if Stormont isn’t functioning, or if it fails to agree on a proposal, the default position will be that Northern Ireland remains aligned to UK rules, not EU ones.

This is a big win for the DUP but is surely unacceptable to nationalists on this side of the border. Dublin’s reaction will be key. Does it reject the proposal or say that while it’s not ideal, it’s a basis for a way forward?

Johnson’s speech was heavy on humour, although it likely left his opponents more tearing their hair out, than rolling in the aisles.

If Brussels and Dublin were exasperated, the Prime Minister will have felt the love in the packed Manchester hall.

He warned that if his Brexit plan wasn’t accepted by the EU, he was prepared for no deal. “Are we ready for it?” he asked. “Yes we are!” they roared back as if the Christmas pantomime had come two months early.

Boris Johnson delivers his keynote speech on day four of the 2019 Conservative Party Conference at Manchester Central on October 2, 2019 in Manchester, England.

The gags followed thick and fast as they would from any panto grand dame.

“If parliament were a school, Ofsted would be shutting it down,” BoJo declared.

“If parliament were a reality TV show, the whole lot of us would have been voted out of the jungle by now.

“At least we would have had the pleasure of watching the Speaker eat kangaroo’s testicles,” he added in a quip that would have done May McFettridge proud.

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