Finally, there’s a Brexiteer at Number 10. Leave.EU backed Boris Johnson for the leadership of the Conservative Party and by extension, the Prime Minister’s office. Boris is making the right noises, pledging to take Britain out of the EU by October 31st – the new cut-off date – “do or die” and deserves to be taken for his word.
Johnson’s first days in office did not disappoint. 17 cabinet ministers were immediately turfed out, driving Remainers into meltdown. Funding for No Deal preparations at British ports and for stockpiles of medicines has been doubled. A massive information campaign is underway.
“This hardline team is not going with the lipstick strategy,” lamented one Tory MP of Boris’s entrouage from the Vote Leave days. The hope of many in Westminster was that Boris would doll up the disastrous deal negotiated by Theresa May with meaningless compromises. Talk of a time limit on the EU’s precious insurance mechanism, known as the Irish back-stop, designed to entrap the United Kingdom in the Single Market had been bandied around for months. The new administration has assured that won’t be nearly be enough.
Making the Europeans sweat
The abysmal performance of Johnson’s predecessor has made it painfully clear (as if it wasn’t already obvious) that begging Brussels for a fair deal only leads to humiliation and precious squandering of political capital, both at home and abroad. He is wisely refusing to make demands that will be rebuffed in public scoring yet another PR victory for the European Union. It’s their turn to be embarrassed.
One person Johnson has spoken to is Ireland’s leader, Leo Varadkar. The UK acts as a land bridge for the majority of Ireland’s exports and imports. The chaos portended by insufferable Remainers really is a concern for Ireland, which is only just recovering from a lost decade caused by the Euro Crisis.
The prime minister knows Varadkar will do anything to avoid Britain leaving the EU on WTO terms. He is the weak link, the new May. Don’t bet against the Taoiseach capitulating and going to Brussels pleasding for last-minute alterations.
Deal or No Deal?
Given the little time left, and the EU’s continuing refusal to reopen the Withdrawal Agreement, Britain would appear to be headed for No Deal. Yet during Johnson’s astonishingly successful leadership campaign, the public was told the chances of that happening were one in a million.
Herein lies the niggling problem. It is to be expected that Boris and his team of seasoned and wily campaigners would talk a tough game. But are they really prepared to go all the way?
Certainly, they are playing an intelligent game in neutralising the EU’s allies in Parliament. Up until now, Brussels has not feared a No Deal Brexit, trusting the Remainer majority in the House of Commons to find a way of thwarting it.
But it is now too late for the opposition to secure a general election through a no confidence vote and ensure it takes place before Britain’s exit date on Halloween.
Even if Boris is told by Parliament to stand down, he would only need to hang on for a few more days and instruct the Queen to hold the election after Brexit day, a request she would be obliged to heed.
That’s no assurance that Boris himself won’t crack in those circumstances and assist with yet another postponement. A week after taking office he admitted he would take Britain into the Single Market and the Customs Union under the transitional terms dictated by the terms already negotiated wuth Brussels. He may yet be getting the lipstick out to pucker up May’s hog of a deal. Michael Gove, now in charge of No Deal planning at the Cabinet Office, has admitted the government is only looking to “change the Withdrawal Agreement”, essentially by ommitting the backstop. It was originally promised that the whole agreement would be binned.
By-elections and the Brexit Party
Perhaps we can afford to be optimistic however. While Boris’s Brexit credentials aren’t in the Nigel Farage league – he is pro-immigration and allegedly considered campaigning for Remain up until the last minute – the former Mayor of London is not blind to the realities of contemporary British politics. The fact of the matter is, he’s made promises he cannot afford to neglect.
The landscape has changed, mistrust in our politicians is rife. Brexit dominates all political discourse. In this context, Farage’s Brexit Party, which won the European elections just weeks after forming, is an absolutely critical force, even now that we have a Brexiteer prime minister.
Two recent by-elections were both won by Remain parties, even though most of the votes went to Leave supporting parties and both seats voted Leave in 2016.
The Tories are now arrogantly dismissing the Brexit Party as a nuisance that could cost them the next election ushering in a Jeremy Corbyn government. But it was the Brexit Party’s sensational emergence that fixed minds: Britain must leave the EU as soon as possible, deal or no deal.
Would Boris have made such a brilliantly bold pitch for the leadership had the Brexit Party not been similarly awesome in romping to victory at the EU elections? We think not. As always, Nigel Farage is setting the agenda and keeping the Tories as honest as conceivably possible. Long may it continue.
And then there’s the prospect of the Brexit Party beating Labour in its own back yard where the Tories don’t have a hope of winning. As argued by Leave.EU’s chairman, Arron Banks a “loose pact” is essential to consolidate the Brexit vote and see off both the mendacious Remain campaign and Corbyn, two birds with one stone.
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