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Easier to stop Brexit with Johnson as PM

by Hugo Dixon | 23.07.2019

Since the EU won’t give Boris Johnson what he wants and MPs won’t let him quit the bloc without a deal, we are probably heading for a referendum or an election. Pro-Europeans will then have every chance to stop Brexit – but we’ll still need to strain every sinew to win.

Johnson’s demands from the EU cannot be negotiated. He wants to scrap the so-called backstop in Theresa May’s deal. There is no way the EU will back down on such a key element of the deal, which is designed to keep the Irish border open in all circumstances.

On the other hand, the new Tory leader will not be able to get away with putting lipstick on his predecessor’s pig of a deal. Even if he wanted to eat his words – he rightly said it would turn us into a “vassal state” – the hardline Brexiters in his party have got him captive and won’t let him do so.

Meanwhile, there are enough sensible Tories – the so-called Gaukeward Squad – who will do anything to stop Johnson crashing out.  Some are even prepared to bring down the government in a vote of no confidence if that’s what it takes.

That’s why we are likely to end up with either an election or referendum. In either case, the next prime minister will have to ask the EU to delay Brexit from its already postponed date of October 31. If there is an election, it’s likely to be before the end of the year. If there is a referendum, it will probably be in May or June of next year.

Johnson will not want to go down either route, but he will have to pick his poison. Either would be fought on the issue of whether we should quit the EU without a deal or stay as members.

The new Tory leader could conceivably win an election if he can see off the threat of Nigel Farage’s Brexit party and the pro-European forces are split. That’s why it’s so important that they come together. Forging some sort of pro European alliance must be the top priority for Jo Swinson, the new Lib Dem leader. The more united the pro-Europeans are, the better chance they have of winning an election and then Johnson won’t even dare to go down that route. 

The next prime minister may therefore pick a referendum, by a process of elimination. He may fancy his chances. After all, he is a great campaigner. He may also calculate that, even if he loses the vote and we stay in the EU, he will somehow hang onto power.

Whether we get an election or a referendum, pro-Europeans need to win. That means honing our arguments for staying in the EU and projecting them to the electorate loud and clear. If we lose, the fate for our country will be desperate. We must not flag.

6 Responses to “Easier to stop Brexit with Johnson as PM”

  • This whole nonsense began as an internal Tory Party civil war and it remains just that today. It is a lasting disgrace that they have dragged the whole nation and continent into their internal insoluble squabble.

  • the first shots for a GE were probably given by TM’s government decision the week before, to give an “above-inflation” pay rise to civil servants, military, education and health specialist.
    that announcement could hardly have been more fortuitous.

  • It’s a bit like repeating the arguments for staying alive, John, rather than jumping off a cliff.
    If Brexiters want to jump off a cliff in the belief that they will go to sunlit uplands in heaven, that is up to them. However, it is not right that they take everyone else with them.
    Britain has been a successful and respected country; if a group of fanatics want to risk all that it is up to them to justify it. The rest of us should not have to justify why we don’t want to take a risk, any more than any of us should have to justify to someone, why we want to stay alive.

  • This is basically all about money. In particular, the finances of a small group of very wealthy and powerful individuals, not all of whom are members of parliament. JRM has increased his personal fortune by some £7M since 2016, Banks has also made a mint and Farage is doing very well, thank you. especially as he is still an MEP and stands to receive a health pension on leaving (no mention of refusing it !). All of these people want to become even wealthier and if that means turning the country into their own fiefdom and making us all their serfs, so be it. They are all first-class crooks and deserve to spend the rest of their days locked up, making best friends with large hairy gentlemen. Johnson is their thing – it remains to be seen if he is happy to continue to do their bidding now he has got his hearts desire.

  • I agree the Tories are preparing for GE. But I fear it will be after we crash out if the EU not before. Promises from remainer Tory MPs never materialised properly under TM I fear they won’t under Bojo either. We need a coalition of Stop No deal Brexit extend article 50.