Any more fares: Then London mayor Boris Johnson travelling on a prototype of two-crew bus — a design he pushed through — in London 2011. Picture: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images
Any more fares: Then London mayor Boris Johnson travelling on a prototype of two-crew bus — a design he pushed through — in London 2011. Picture: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

British politics increasingly looks like a runaway red London double-decker bus about to smash through the balustrade of Westminster Bridge and plunge into the Thames.

As it was Boris Johnson who, during his time as mayor of London, rammed through a new two-crew bus design (now derisively nicknamed the "Boris Bus") to replace the capital’s evocative, dearly loved but expensive and "unsafe" Routemasters, the metaphor is apt.

Dawn has broken, it seems, on the Brexit hardliners as they realise that — as the Latin-quoting prime minister himself might have said — tempus fugit. Time is, indeed, flying. The British government has 15 days to come up with a plan that will prevent the UK from crashing out of the EU without a deal on October 31.

That might explain why both the European Research Group and the Democratic Unionist Party have indicated they will consider a deal that involves including the troublesome Irish backstop they have, until now, firmly rejected.

That is just as well for Johnson. This week, he denied a leaked report that said the government was considering setting up "customs sites" within 15km of the border itself as well as radio tracking devices on trucks. The measures would be necessary to shore up the proposal for an "all-Ireland" economic zone which would allow free movement of agriproducts across the border.

The imbroglio, however, is all about avoiding putting physical infrastructure on the Irish border, not least because a commitment was made to the Irish people that there would be no "hard" border. From afar, it is difficult to see the difference between customs sites on the border or close to it.

Meanwhile, the bus gathers speed as the desperate conductor cries: "Any more fares?"

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