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If Brexit goes ahead, best that Johnson owns chaos

by Hugo Dixon | 30.06.2019

With Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson both setting out extreme Brexit positions, the key question for pro-Europeans is who is most likely to swerve and what happens if they don’t.

Anybody thinking that the current Foreign Secretary will have a significantly softer approach to Brexit than his predecessor should be disabused by his interview today in the Sunday Times. There Hunt commits to leave the EU with no deal on October 31 if he hasn’t managed to negotiate a different deal by early October – and there’s fat chance of that.

He also threatens to withhold part of the divorce £39 billion divorce fee that Theresa May negotiated with the bloc, something virtually guaranteed to be a red rag to our European friends. 

Last week Johnson said it was a matter of “do or die” to leave the EU on October 31. The dynamics of the Conservative leadership campaign are making both candidates more and more extreme. So, in terms of their official positions, there is little to choose between the two candidates. They are both extremely dangerous.

However, it may be easier to stop Johnson than Hunt doing something crazy. This is partly because Johnson has a greater capacity to do U-turns than anybody else in British politics. The current Foreign Secretary isn’t averse to flip-flopping himself. Witness how he has gone backwards and forwards over whether or not to crash out without a deal.

However, it would be harder for Hunt to sell to the British people the need for a new referendum than it would be for Johnson to do so. There is also greater hostility among moderate Tory MPs towards Johnson than to Hunt. This means that it is more likely they would vote to bring down a government which he ran. Hunt, by contrast, might just keep his party together as he dragged us all over the cliff into the abyss.

What’s more, if we do crash out of the EU without a deal, that won’t be the end of the story. If Hunt is at the controls, hardline Brexiters will say he messed it up because he wasn’t a true believer. Remember that Hunt voted remain three years ago. By contrast, if Johnson is at the wheel when his red bus plunges into the chasm, he will have no way of washing his hands of the chaos. Nor will it be easy for other Brexiters to shift the blame to anybody but themselves.

Sure, we will still have to pick up the pieces – and that will require an enormous national effort of reconstruction and reconciliation. But at least then, it should be easier to start with an honest foundation.

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Edited by Max Waller

9 Responses to “If Brexit goes ahead, best that Johnson owns chaos”

  • It’s not just that… a lot of #Leavers have invested a lot of trust and emotional baggage with Boris to deliver Brexit on 31st October. If Hunt fails, that will be just another Remainer without the balls to get the job done. If Bozzo fails, where will they go? At least some of them may start to re-examine their whole support for the project; and at minimum, give-up their involvement in the matter of Britain’s Membership of the EU.

  • Boris should be at the helm to take us through leaving the EU. It’s just like Bruce lsmay the Chairman of White Star Line being on the Titanic when it sank. Boris should and if the economy does sink to the cold murky depths of the Atlantic, to go down with it. We don’t want him replicating Ismay and getting in a lifeboat with the women and kids.

  • Sorry but nothing will convince me that Johnson becoming PM will be anything other than a fundamental embarrassment and disaster for our country. Still – endorsement from In Facts will hopefully not give a boost to the Johnston campaign!

  • BJ is an arch-opportunist. He will promise the moon to get into No 10 but once in, he will do whatever is necessary to stay there, including, quite possibly, revocation, if that is the only way that his return address continues to be No 10 Downing Street. As for his adoring followers, as you say, they will have no-one else to blame if he does renege on his commitments. Remember his avowed intention to lie in front of the bulldozers to prevent the third runway ? Sorry – couldn’t make it – important business elsewhere.

  • It’s not even Hobson’s choice! But Johnson as PM fills me with dread. I wouldn’ t put anything past Johnson, even asking Cameron to be a member of his Cabinet. But no one knows how this will play out. I hang on to the hope that events will go our way and Article 50 is revoked. Until Brexit is reality we keep fighting.

  • You don’t mention the fact that Johnson has very little credit within EU circles while Hunt is to quite an extent an unknown quantity. The will of the EU cadres to work with Johnson is as good as zero, whilst Hunt has to be checked out. So Johnson will fail quite a lot faster and harder than Hunt, which, as you say, would probably be a good thing to happen, as it would trigger elections which give a chance to get someone with normal human intelligence and compassion back in charge. That in turn indeed would enable restoration of anywhere near cordial ties with the EU, something the UK needs to actually earn its keep.

  • Politics is often about making choices btween rocks and hard places. I have thought that the Boris is indeed for Turning (as is a man like Gove too, if he thought hard about something overnight) and Boris would spin it as some Churchillian stepping in to do the impossible. But he would have to be convinced that it was the best path for him to take. Russian Roulette is still the name of the game.

  • When the reality of brexit hits you can rest assured that Borisolini will be the first on the bridge to trumpland where he’ll be given a plum job in a (so-called) think-tank – sharing an office with that other sell-out to America, Faux Fox.

  • Ignore the ignorant brexiters. They have no idea of the consequences of what they spout on about. Best if we let them have their fantasies amongst each other. Whilst we more enlightened ones do all we can to save them from themselves and economic oblivion. 🤣