Comment

Boris-induced Mayhem godsend for pro-Europeans

by Hugo Dixon | 18.09.2017

Boris Johnson’s weekend intervention will weaken Theresa May’s already fragile grip on power, while making clear that the only good Brexit is one falsely promised by Leavers. As such, it is an opportunity for pro-Europeans who wish to stop the whole mad escapade.

The mayhem unleashed by the foreign secretary’s 4,200 word article in the Telegraph and his subsequent row with the chair of the country’s independent statistics watchdog could unfold in many different ways. But, under pretty much any scenario, the government will be further destabilised.

Perhaps Johnson will resign, arguing that May has betrayed the Brexit he campaigned for in last year’s referendum. Conceivably our weak prime minister will even summon the strength to sack him for undermining her latest Brexit strategy, which will be revealed in Florence on Friday. This could involve signalling a willingness to pay the EU tens of billions of pounds to secure continued access to its single market for several years after Brexit.

Either way, the foreign secretary would be in a position to establish himself as the leader of the hard Brexit brigade. Johnson’s star has waned in the past year. But making rousing speeches aimed at the Tory faithful, without any of the constraints of office, could rebuild his power base.

It is also possible that Johnson will stay in post. But this would further knock May’s authority. Having got away with undermining not just her Brexit strategy but the country’s statistics watchdog, there would be nothing to stop the foreign secretary lobbing further grenades in the prime minister’s direction.

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May doesn’t just face a dilemma over what to do with Johnson’s position in the cabinet. She faces a dilemma over what to do on Brexit. Will she stick with the strategy she seems inclined to unveil in Florence – or will she move back to her previous even harder form of Brexit?

Either way, the prime minister is going to have trouble. If she goes for the slightly softer form, she risks being accused of betrayal by the hard Brexiters. If she takes a harder line, business will have the heebie-jeebies. So will her chancellor, Philip Hammond, and a group of sensible Tory backbench MPs such as Nicky Morgan and Anna Soubry.

It is indeed uncertain whether May will be able to come up with any policy that can command a majority in Parliament. There’s even the possibility that Johnson’s interventions will result in a challenge to her leadership, open civil war within the Conservative Party and yet another election.

All these scenarios offer opportunities for pro-Europeans, as they will help change public opinion. They will solidify the impression that the government doesn’t have a clue what it’s doing and ram home the point that there’s no good Brexit except for the lie-ridden one promised by the Leave campaign.

But it’s not good enough for pro-Europeans to sit back and watch the fallout. They need to get stuck in and make the most of the Mayhem.

Edited by Sam Ashworth-Hayes

One Response to “Boris-induced Mayhem godsend for pro-Europeans”

  • Absolutely, the campaign goes on, on the streets, showing that Remain is still here and is looking to change public mood and opinion as Brexit veers off the rails.