5 ways Boris’ bid for power is sowing more Brexit divisions

by Luke Lythgoe | 12.06.2019

Boris Johnson has been at the heart of the Brexit mess for the last three years – as the frontman of the Vote Leave campaign, hapless foreign secretary and saboteur on the sidelines. But his plans if he wins the contest to be our next prime minister will only widen the gulf in our society further.

Tax cuts for the rich

At the official launch of his leadership bid today, Johnson insisted he could “unite our country and our society” and “bridge the wealth gap” between the South East and other regions. Yet his biggest policy pledge so far is a tax cut for the rich worth £10 billion, raising the 40% tax threshold from £50,000 to £80,000 – something The Sun has declared a “stinker for the average Brit”.

The Brexit vote didn’t happen because the rich weren’t rich enough. It happened because those with the least were really struggling after years of austerity. Far better to spend the money – if Johnson even has it (see below) – on policies which tackle those grievances head on. That should include investment in towns which have been neglected for decades, building more housing stock, funding the NHS and education.

‘We must leave the EU on October 31’

Johnson has doubled down on this point, and as a result is speeding towards a “no deal” cliff edge. Even if the EU hadn’t already ruled it out, there simply isn’t time to renegotiate a deal like Johnson wants. But we aren’t prepared for a crash out on Halloween either, according to a confidential cabinet note seen by the FT, with six to eight months needed to avoid huge disruption at the border and to medicine stocks.

A no-deal Brexit would lead to appalling dislocation. The Bank of England predicts the economy shrinking by 8%, house prices crashing and unemployment and inflation spiralling. Police chiefs have amassed the biggest ever peacetime reserve of officers in expectation of social unrest.

Refusing to pay £39 billion divorce bill

This threat would burn the already rickety bridges with our EU neighbours, with whom we do almost half our trade and cooperate closely on everything from crime-fighting to scientific research. Defaulting on the money we owe will trash our reputation as an international ally who can be counted upon. The EU will pursue us through the courts for the money we owe. Johnson today called the UK “the world’s soft-power superpower” – his brinkmanship would turn us into a pariah split off from the global community.

Tempted by a Trump trade deal

The US president is “very keen to intensify our economic co-operation and to do a free-trade deal”, Johnson boasted after a recent phone call. But turning to our transatlantic ally will only sow more division between the government and voters, with public outrage at the prospect of US firms exploiting the NHS and worse environmental protections and food safety replacing the high EU standards we enjoy today.

Making promises he can’t keep

Johnson continues to make vague, unfunded promises that are totally incompatible with his crash-out Brexit trajectory. At today’s launch these included more funding for schools and police, vastly improved fibre optic broadband coverage and even the suggestion that Leeds needs a metro.

Making unrealistic populist promises and failing to deliver will only alienate the public further. Deeper disillusionment risks pushing voters towards even more radical figures. Nigel Farage is waiting in the wings.

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Edited by Hugo Dixon

9 Responses to “5 ways Boris’ bid for power is sowing more Brexit divisions”

  • Hugo, I do admire your work, but why do you constantly publish pictures of Boris, Farage etc?
    Why is it we do not see far more of the Ken Clark and all the other patriots?


  • All the shrieking headlines about a landslide are confusing as he would still not have an overall majority with the Lib Dems and Labour alone able to outvote him. So;more chaos and delays. When will people wake up to the simple truth that to end this chaos all we have to do is stay in the EU and join the reform efforts there.

  • Well said, Patricia. The answer to your question about waking up is that people do not have an inking that Brexit will make them worse off. My MP, Suella Braverman (a Raab supporter), has today told me that she is saddened by the fact that I cannot empathise with millions who voted to leave the EU so the country could make its own laws! That is the sort of twaddle being preached by the Tory hardline leavers.
    The remain side needs to put its counter arguments to the twiddle much more loudly and regularly. Start by debunking Johnson’s twaddle as per the above article. Luke, you are preaching to the converted here. Get your message more widely disseminated to those who swallow simple Johnsonian soundbites.

  • God help us, has commensense gone out of the window in this country? Look at Google if you don’t believe the figures, we are much better off in the EU than out , Fact!!

  • I agree entirely with the two earlier comments. I find it hard to believe that all this nonsense epitomized by BJ’s press conference is going on in our own country which prides itself on its political traditions and parliamentary democracy. Already the binary choice of the 2016 Referendum was deeply flawed; we knew what Remain meant because we had been in that situation for 43 years; Leave was ” all things to all people ” a totally unknown state of affairs the contents of which had to be negotiated with 27 other Member States. If the UK had had a written Constitution, it is unlikely that a Referendum in that form could have taken place.

    The only slight reason for optimism following BJ’s performance today was that it was a terrible performance; full of platitudes and fake news delivered with transparent insincerity like a actor aware that his script was not very convincing. In this connection, watch James O’Brien’s live commentary on BJ’ speech on LBC radio. However the big question remains; how can INFACTS and the Peoples Vote campaign compete with the massive press organs of disinformation at the service of the Brexiters?

  • To David Quinn

    The right wing media are overwhelmingly dominant here and that is why Brexit happened in Britain. The only surprise is how many proved resistant to the wall to wall propaganda – one might have expected the ideology that has seized the conservative party to have spread more widely or become universal, but some individuals do not succumb, fortunately.

    For the EU to survive however it must devote far more resources to a PR counter-offensive

  • The real problem we have is having a decent platform to hold these people to account with some serious questioning, and even when we get near to this to put it in simple terms to an electorate that is sick of the whole affair (as I am!).
    It’s ridiculous, for example, that people get worked up about Pensioners paying for a TV licence fee but not a 9% hit in the economy, which will hurt these people an awful lot more. interchanging statistics between relative and actual amounts is a great way of saying the truth, without saying the truth in a way people can understand, and is the game of charlatans.

  • To John King. Thank you for your comment and suggestion re the resources of the EU being reinforced in the PR area. I made the same point to the head of the Press Office of the EU in London in 2013. He pointed to what they were doing already to counteract the disinformation in the English press; the creation of the Euromyth website containing more than 100 identified absurd accusations regularly made in the national press and which his office spent endless hours engaged in correspondence with the Press and the Press complaints committee in order to have these myths retracted.

    But at the end of the day he admitted that his press office could not compete with the English national press in this area nor was that their only vocation.

  • Candidates for PM admit to taking class-A drugs, are serial adulterers, proven liars…what other skeletons are buried in their cupboards? The spooks of hostile powers must be rubbing their hands in glee at the prospect of an easy mark for blackmail getting into No 10.