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Theresa May snubbed this brilliant plan for Brexit. Is Boris Johnson taking it seriously?

Boris Johnson and Angela Merkel in Berlin
Boris Johnson met Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, in Berlin for talks on Brexit Credit: REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

Where the Telegraph sketch leads, Downing Street follows. Six months ago, in this very column, I proposed a radical but at the same time eminently reasonable solution to the problem of Brexit. It was this.

Germany, France and our 25 other neighbours should quit the EU, and become part of the UK instead.

At last: a plan to satisfy everyone, no matter which way they voted in 2016. First, it would suit Leavers, because all laws would be made in Westminster, and immigration figures would be slashed (for the simple reason that all Poles, Bulgarians, and anyone else entering Britain from the continent, would now officially be British, and therefore not immigrants). Second, it would suit Remainers, because they would get to live in a vast centralised superstate (the newly expanded UK) boasting its own army (the British one) and a single currency (the pound). 

On top of that, the flow of goods could continue exactly as at present, and there’d be no hard border with Ireland. Foolproof. Surely no one could object.

Sadly, with all too characteristic lack of imagination, Theresa May appears not to have given this brilliant plan a moment’s thought. I was pleasantly surprised, therefore, to read in Wednesday's Sun that the new occupants of Downing Street actually intend to take up my proposal. Or at least, something very like it. 

“The Sun,” I read, “has learned that Boris Johnson is ready to propose a new bilateral deal between London and Dublin… Under the new idea, Ireland would win a special dispensation from Brussels to diverge from EU rules temporarily so it can stay aligned with the UK.”

In effect: leave the EU, and join the UK.

Imitation is of course the sincerest form of flattery, so, if the Sun’s report is correct, I’m delighted that the Government is taking my plan seriously. My only fear is that the Sun may have got its wires crossed, and Downing Street is entertaining no such thought. Because on Wednesday, while visiting Germany, Boris Johnson gave a brief press conference with Angela Merkel. And he didn’t mention the plan from the Sun once. 

A pity, because the German chancellor seemed to be all ears. “Britain should tell us what sort of ideas it has,” she said, just a touch wearily. She then informed Mr Johnson that he had “30 days” to solve the Irish border problem.

Though he described the deadline as “blistering”, Mr Johnson didn’t look at all fazed. Throughout the press conference, he beamed away breezily, as if he hadn’t a care in the world, and even made a joke at the expense of his host. “We in the UK want a deal, and I believe we can get one,” he blared. “Wir schaffen das, as I believe the phrase is!”

Wir schaffen das (“We can manage it”) was what Mrs Merkel said in 2015 after inviting one million refugees to live in Germany. Critics have mocked her with the phrase ever since.

At the end, Mr Johnson insisted that he had “abundant” solutions for the Irish border. After mumbling something vague about “trusted trader schemes or electronic pre-clearing”, he promised there was “more besides”, but tantalisingly did not elaborate. Perhaps he was saving the other ideas up for his one-on-one meeting with Mrs Merkel, straight afterwards.

I do hope he suggested mine.