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Analysis

Boris says PM bottled it. Will Boris now bottle it?

by Luke Lythgoe | 25.03.2019

After a meeting with top Tory Brexiters at Chequers over the weekend, and confused reports about a possible third “meaningful vote” on Theresa May’s deal this week, there is speculation a promise to Brexiters that the prime minister will resign could be enough to win their support.

This would be the height of hypocrisy for a hardliner like Boris Johnson, who even today accused May of having “bottled it” in EU negotiations and called her deal a “democratic disaster” on “Carthaginian terms” – i.e. “very humiliating” for anyone not as steeped in classical history as Johnson.

And yet… Johnson adds today that the deal could still go through Parliament. But it would need “convincing proofs of how the next phase of the negotiations [with the EU] – when all the key questions are to be settled – will be different from the first”.

Could one such “proof” be the resignation of the prime minister, giving Johnson the chance to fill her shoes? It shouldn’t. The deal will still be rotten – and it would mean rowing back hard on comments made up to this point.

“We have wrapped a suicide vest around the British constitution – and handed the detonator to Michel Barnier.”

That was Johnson’s reaction last September to the original “Chequers plan” – the forerunner to May’s deal – and specifically the Irish border backstop. The concept for the backstop – if there’s no new trade deal by 2021 then the UK enters a bare-bones customs union with the EU – remains largely the same.

“We were taken in.”

Again, Johnson last September, claiming he was duped into originally supporting the backstop as a cabinet member in December 2017. He’s got no such excuses this time.

“It’s vassal state stuff. For the first time in a thousand years, this Parliament will not have a say over the laws that govern this country.”

That was Johnson’s reaction when the text of the deal was revealed in mid November. Damning, but also note how it is inconsistent with his arguments during the 2016 referendum where he said we’d lost control of our laws already.

“This deal is finished, it’s over, it’s dead.”

That was Johnson after the deal was voted down the first time by a margin of 230 votes. So, if Johnson does ultimately back the deal, will he be dabbling in a bit of necromancy?

“Appalling deal… staggering [divorce] sum… humiliating implementation period”

Just last month Johnson used his Telegraph column to attack several aspects of the deal, including the estimated £39 billion financial settlement (which will probably be much larger), and the 21-month transition period which would see us keep access to the EU’s single market but follow all the EU’s laws – including new ones – without a say.

None of these bad bits of the deal have changed. And even if Brexiters think they could change it later, by taking control of government after May’s gone, they will struggle. Trying to scrap the backstop or crashing out on WTO trading terms would mean reneging on an international treaty and causing huge damage to the UK’s global standing. Backing May’s deal at this point to pursue such an uncertain path would be as reckless as it is hypocritical.

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Edited by Hugo Dixon

2 Responses to “Boris says PM bottled it. Will Boris now bottle it?”

  • If we need time to think things over and to make a plan there is an option available to May and the UK Parliament. Here it is:

    Withdraw A50, the quickest and least expensive way out of this mess we are in. How can conditions that exist in the UK right now be preferable to resuming our seat at the top table as a respected and honourable member of the world’s largest trade group? Don’t forget, we would not forfeit our right to decide to leave at a later date. When we have a plan and are better prepared, but not now.

    We would have plenty of time to discuss, plan and prepare, not to mention electing a new government too. Also elect responsible MEPs to constructively (opposite of destructively) look after our interests in Brussels. All the while continuing as we are now, a member state trading with 500,000,000 people and receiving subsidies that help to keep sectors of our country viable and afloat. (Never mind the argument that money currently paid to the EU would be diverted to these same sectors. It would never happen).

    Withdraw A50, the path to sanity.

  • Another Briton completely overlooking the fact that Brits can say what they want. Wouldn’t it be a tad more clever to go to the EU, say something like sorry for the mess we made of this, then state that all we want is to sort out the UK wishes in good co-operation and make sure that everybody is as happy as the circumstances allow. Brexiteers must be told that compromising is the name of their game too, Johnson is sent back to his nation of birth and gets a farm with lots of carnivorous llama’s, hungry for his wisdom and for his ample protein and we sort out how to Brexit in name only to save as much face as we can! Simples!