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Analysis

Boris Johnson’s resignation makes People’s Vote more likely

by Hugo Dixon | 09.07.2018

The biggest problem for those who want to stop Brexit is that the public are sick and tired of the whole goddamn business. They know things aren’t going to plan. But they just want to watch the World Cup, spend time with their families or whatever.

But with Brexit’s top cheerleader quitting the Cabinet, voters will now know that something really bad is going on. Boris Johnson’s resignation is much more important than David Davis’ last night. It’s no exaggeration to say that, without his support, the referendum result two years ago would have been different.

We now have a good chance to stop the nightmare.

Anything now could happen. More Cabinet ministers may resign. Tory MPs may call for May’s resignation. If she goes, the turmoil unleashed could easily lead to the public and Parliament concluding that the only sensible way to end the chaos is to ask the people whether they still want Brexit.

But, as things stand, the hardline Brexiters don’t seem to have the numbers to kill the prime minister. It’s quite hard to assassinate the leader of the Tory party, as I explained here.

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That said, even if she limps on, she will be wounded. The foreign secretary will be a big beast roaming the back benches, attacking her policy. He will be free to criticise her proposals openly as a “turd”, rather than doing so behind closed doors. He will be free to point out that they mean losing control rather than taking back control. And, if he says this, he will be right.

But the big problem for Johnson – and the big opportunity for patriotic pro-Europeans – is that he doesn’t have a viable alternative to what I have called May’s castration Brexit. The idea that we should crash out of the EU with no deal at all – and “f**k business” to use another of his expressions – is sheer madness.

The former foreign secretary has reportedly said in private meetings that it would be better to stay in the EU than accept the type of Brexit the prime minister now wants. He is right on this too. How could it make sense to be tied to the EU’s rules without a vote on them?

So what does Johnson do now? His hero, Winston Churchill, famously ratted and re-ratted, switching from the Tories to the Liberals and back again.

It is perhaps too much to expect him to admit that he was wrong about Brexit from the start and switch sides. But he could pick up an idea he toyed with before the referendum – that the British people should vote twice on Brexit.

Johnson could say that we were right to have a vote in principle for Brexit and that, once we can see what Brexit means, we should have another one. There is no other solution.

8 Responses to “Boris Johnson’s resignation makes People’s Vote more likely”

  • A very good article.

    Notwithstanding the two new headlines about Boris Johnson and David Davis resigning, it is shocking that so-called “elite” and “educated” senior politicians feel that it is “right” and “normal” to use the raw language and expletives they’ve been using, especially recently. “F*** Business”; a Brexit policy like a “turd”. This is absolutely not normal.

    We all use these words in private, but rarely in public, and certainly don’t exect politicians to use such words in public.

    Just to finish off, if anyone wishes to read an excellent discussion on the character-type behind this behaviour, refer to the Guardian article “The Guardian view on the cabinet Brexiteers: vacuous, dreary and incapable of responsibility” (6. July 2018) (found easily in an Internet search)

  • As Oscar Wild did not write ..”To lose one minister is a misfortune……”
    What beggar’s belief is what appears to be the fact that the current crop of senior or ex-senior ministers appear to have such a fragile comprehension of Government policy and the consequences of their own actions. Leaving aside whether the May proposals (as yet to be properly published are good or bad why did it take so long for Messes Davies and Johnson to realise they could not continue to support them. What exactly has changed in the 48 hours or more since the Chequers meeting? In my day when advising ministers they were people of intellect who grasped both the content and the implications of the content of what they were being briefed and knew what they would and would not sign up to. In terms of the future and his greater ambition it hardly shows Boris to be Prime Ministerial material. Boris – Yea and Ney!

  • I have just spent an hour listening to May repeating ad nauseam her dreary Brexit mantra. I have to say that I do admire her tenacity but that alone does not make her right. She seems prepared to pay any price (or cause us to pay any price) to keep the Tories in power. So, in short, she needs to be put into a position where the only way forward is for a Peoples Vote on the Brexit outcome. I daren’t say a rerun of the referendum for obvious reasons. Let’s just say that now that we have a more educated electorate they would probably vote for staying within the EU and probably support a party where that was part of their manifesto. This surely is an opportunity for some of the more energetic MPs to see an opportunity?

  • Thank you for reopening the comment window.

    We are now poised between those who say one or all of ‘We hate the EU; We hate Brussels; and We hate foreigners – ‘we’ better than ‘I’ as it looks less racist!
    OR
    Those like me who see the EU as a bastion against extremist politics in Britain AND Britain in the EU as a bastion against extremist politics in other member states.

    Furthermore, unless you believe in mirages, only staying in will give us the economic leeway (taxable capacity) to cope with prisons, courts, education, infrastructure, NHS and social care, local authority solvency etc etc – even defence.

  • Whilst it may be tempting for pro-Europeans to think, that with Boris and Davis both jumping ship, the type of Brexit deal Theresa May has in mind, may well be more palatable.
    However, there is nothing in Theresa May’s plan about protecting our services industries, which make up ca. 80% of the economy, and it is equally unyielding in stopping ‘freedom of movement, except for a “mobility framework’ to allow UK and EU citizens to apply for work or study in one another’s countries. However that appears a meaningless gesture as such applications could of course be rejected. In so doing, millions of UK citizens will be robbed of their rights to live and work in Europe.
    It is also worth bearing in mind that Davis’ replacement, Dominic Raab, is every bit a Brexit hardliner, except with a more legal mind than Davis. Also, that the extreme hardliners Fox and Gove are still on board.
    The Brexit hardliners want to give the impression that May’s plan just consists of concessions to the EU, but in my eyes it is still very much a hard Brexit.

  • “Johnson could say that we were right to have a vote in principle for Brexit ”

    Surely this is wrong? Was Brexit a topic of public concern before Cameron foisted it on an unsuspecting public? Not at all. So why was it right in principle to have a referendum?

  • Why are we perusing another referendum vote as a solution to this awful mess we are in? The same groups who manipulated the voters to vote leave are still there and they are still well funded by any number of sources. Public names and faces will change but those who inhabit the dark side protect their anonymity with vigor. Look how long it took AAron Banks to come out of the closet and he is/was a very well public figure. Now, after how many years we have defiantly pinned him down to admitting not none or one but eleven meetings with various Russians. That’s it? Is that what we know about a man who funded