Dominic Cummings, the mastermind behind the 2016 U.K. vote to leave the European Union, said it would be a “disaster” if Prime Minister Boris Johnson suspended parts of the Brexit deal over trade in Northern Ireland.
“I do not want this government to trigger Article 16,” Cummings wrote in a blog post, referring to a clause in the divorce that allows either side to scrap the trade provisions down the Irish Sea. If Johnson did so “it’s bound to be a debacle that damages the economy and relations with allies.”
The intervention from Cummings, who until November last year was Johnson’s chief aide, comes as Brexit minister David Frost continues negotiations with his EU counterpart Maros Sefcovic over a potential compromise.
The U.K. is the one threatening to pull the plug after rejecting the EU’s proposed solutions. Frost say they fall short of what is needed. In turn, Brussels has firmed up its resolve and is threatening to terminate the entire post-Brexit trade deal if Britain follows through in what has become a familiar game of chicken between both sides.
It’s not even been a year since the U.K. fully left the bloc, which is also its biggest trading partner.
Johnson a year ago acrimoniously parted ways with Cummings, once one of his closest confidantes and the former aide has taken to attacking the government, often with a litany of expletives, at every turn. So his antagonism toward Johnson is to be taken with a grain of salt.
Cummings says there is a strategy that could work for the U.K. in triggering Article 16, but it couldn’t be effectively enacted by Johnson because the prime minister would create a “diplomatic mess” and “economic harm particularly to small businesses.”
Cummings, who back in the day never advocated backing down when it came to Brexit, said Johnson should accept the EU’s proposed offer on Northern Ireland and move on.
“The best we can reasonably hope for given the state of No 10 is to bank the EU’s concessions, muddle through for now,” Cummings wrote. “The PM is incapable of handling it.”