Boris Johnson wants us to blink on Brexit - did Ireland's eyelid just twitch?
"The Irish will blink."
When it comes to Brexit, the true-believers have always known that Britain has held the stronger hand all along, as it does in all matters, because it's Britain.
Facing down a united front of 27 nations with their shared rights, economic interests and currency? No problem, not for Her Majesty's not-so-secret squadron of scofflaw Oxbridge students. The Johnsons, the Raabs, the Rees-Moggs et al.
It's a staring contest, and they are sure that either Ireland or the EU will blink.
Now that Boris Johnson is Prime Minister, he can fully implement his desired strategy of blowing into our eyes. Tuesday saw the Irish eyelid twitch for the very first time.
In a now-deleted tweet, Fianna Fáil TD Timmy Dooley landed the blame for Brexit tensions rather squarely at the feet of the Irish government.
"The stand off with our nearest neighbour is as a direct result of Taoiseach Varadkar's failure to engage in basic diplomacy over the past 2 years. The Government's lack of experience and arrogance will hurt Ireland in the coming months," he said.
Tonally, substantively, it could have been taken straight from the opinion pages of The Sun or The Telegraph, papers that have told Varadkar to "shut his gob," or called him a "naive dope," or a "pipsqueak."
Dooley lay the gunpowder for a rather combustible situation, and his own party leader made the decision to strike a match, subtweeting his party's Spokesperson on Communications.
Delivering what seemed to be a painfully public slap-down, Micheál Martin said: "To be absolutely clear; the refusal by PM Boris Johnson to engage with European leaders and our Taoiseach without pre conditions on the issue of Brexit is unacceptable and is not within the realms of normal diplomatic or political behaviour."
To be absolutely clear; the refusal by PM Boris Johnson to engage with European leaders and our Taoiseach without pre conditions on the issue of Brexit is unacceptable and is not within the realms of normal diplomatic or political behaviour.
— Micheál Martin (@MichealMartinTD) July 30, 2019
Martin's tweet came as a salve of sweet absolution for Varadkar, who can certainly point to innumerable failures in diplomacy perpetrated by his opposite number in Number 10. After all, it was BoJo himself who resigned as Foreign Secretary in 2018 rather than stomach any more compromise.
Dooley's shot across the bow was a surprise, and one that rattled the Irish deck, as is clear from the reaction it. It had over well 1,000 replies by the time it was deleted.
And still, it was not exactly out of the blue.
Sources in Fianna Fáil had started to brief journalists on background that there was a problem with the "personalities" who were negotiating Brexit for Ireland. One source claimed that there were "a lot of egos and a lot of bravado on all sides," and that some on the Irish side had been "taking pot shots" to try to "win kudos at home."
"I think there's too much pride and too much ego, I actually think there's been pride and ego on both sides. It's become very tribal," the source said.
But of course.
Brexit is tribal by its very nature. By its very definition. In the Platonic world of forms, it remains about reclaiming sovereignty. Doing away with all that pesky interference from the Gauls and the Teutons and the Paddies and just letting Britain be British again.
The idea that the Brexit discussion can exist above those tribal lines, devoid of emotion and severed from history, pacific and tranquil in the face of insult, impingement and ignominy, is not realistic.
When the stated policy of United Kingdom is to jeopardise the Good Friday Agreement, a peace treaty won after decades of bloodshed, then that lack of diplomacy you're feeling is actually emanating from further east than Dublin, Timothy.
Indeed, once the United Kingdom made the decision to leave a co-operative union of states without a single plan in place for how they could achieve it - let alone without a single discussion of what would become of Northern Ireland - they threw basic diplomacy to the wind.
They have spent the following three years having general elections, appeasing 10 DUP MPs, resigning ad nauseam, voting and re-voting on the same Withdrawal Agreement and ignoring every shred of advice proffered by Ireland or the EU. What we call diplomacy, they call EU meddling. There's little that can be done about that.
Varadkar had his first official phone call with Johnson today. It came a week after Johnson ascended to his premiership, which alone is in itself a testament to how the rocky the road to Dublin from Downing Street has become.
During the conversation, Varadkar correctly noted that the backstop is a necessary consequence of "decisions taken in the UK and by the UK government." If Irish politicians lose sight of that reality, then we could end up royally screwed.
If only there was a more diplomatic way to put it.