Johnson’s red rags increase pro-Europeans’ chances

by Hugo Dixon | 24.07.2019

The Bolshevik motto, “the worse the better”, is sadly the best way to greet Boris Johnson’s arrival in Downing Street. Things are going to get worse, possibly much worse. But then there is every chance that they will get better.

The new prime minister‘s hardline appointments mean he is heading for a clash with both the EU and sensible Tory MPs. An election or a new referendum is looming – with the choice in both cases being between no deal and no Brexit. Pro-Europeans are not guaranteed to win such electoral contests, but we have a good chance to do so.

Johnson started off the day by making Dominic Cummings one of his two top aides. The former Vote Leave mastermind who was found in contempt of Parliament earlier this year for refusing to answer its questions about the conduct of the last referendum. Hardly a good way to win friends and influence MPs.

The new prime minister continued by giving top Cabinet positions to a string of hardline Brexiters. Dominic Raab is foreign secretary, Priti Patel home secretary and Andrea Leadsom business secretary. The list goes on and on.

Many pro-Europeans will throw up their hands in horror. But there is a big silver lining in the cloud. Johnson’s government is not likely to last, unless he does a massive U-turn and calls a new referendum. 

Even before these appointments, his chances of getting a deal with the EU were slim. After them, they are tiny.

Johnson will go into battle with Brussels and swiftly receive a masterclass in why the EU is such a valuable entity. 27 countries working together have more power than one, even a proud one such as the UK. We need the EU more than it needs us. It’s not clever to pick a fight with somebody much bigger.

The new prime minister’s chance of persuading MPs to let him crash out of the EU without a deal was also pretty slim before his appointments. Sensible Tory MPs will view today as a bull views a red rag. More and more of them will be emboldened to do whatever it takes to stop him crashing out.

Johnson likes to summon up a can-do spirit. Pro-Europeans should, at least, take that leaf from his book. If we can put a man on the moon, we can certainly stop Brexit.

Correction: Andrea Leadsom is business secretary. The story briefly said she was trade secretary.

Edited by Hugo Dixon

6 Responses to “Johnson’s red rags increase pro-Europeans’ chances”

  • From his name, Alexander Boris de-Pfeffel Johnson, from which he gave himself the more “cuddly-sounding” Boris, through his career as an overpaid and mediocre journalist to his appointment yesterday, this man, in both his professional and private life, has been a persistent and compulsive liar, cheat and fraud. I suspect this deceitful and disgraceful behaviour will continue and it will not take long for those who have given him the benefit of the doubt to realise just how shallow an individual he is.

  • I don’t think it will make any difference, Neil. If Trump is anything to go by he will enjoy a dedicated core of supporters untroubled by his colourful character or attracted to it.
    Johnson and Trump are only window dressing anyway. There are more shadowy and sinister characters pulling the strings and giving the orders in this worldwide battle between liberal and civilised values and extreme right wing idealogy. Johnson is clearly not an ideologist but he will do as he’s told.

  • He talked about bringing the country together but in his first 24 hours he has increased the divisions in the wretched Tory party and created even more enemies. This must be the most extreme right wing cabinet ever put together and there are several nasty rotten right wing eggs in attendance as ‘advisers’. I hope the EU holds firm and does not budge an inch. No rewording of anything and no tampering with the backstop. That will put Johnson in a mess. I notice he has started the blame game already; he knows he has an impossible task. Never in my worst nightmares did I see Johnson as PM. Don’t ever let Cameron say again that he does not regret calling a referendum.

  • Priti Patel and Dominic Raab are co-authors of the right wing manifesto book, ‘Brittania Unchained’. To anyone in the remotest doubt about the likely trajectory of Boris’ government should purchase a second hand copy and read it. Though it is not a pleasant experience it is informative. Amongst other things these people would happily make a bonfire out of existing workers rights, with us having no say about it, hence their enthusiasm about leaving the EU. Welcome to taking back control.

  • I think you’re right John about BoJo being a front man for more shadowy people.
    I have even begun to wonder if he was withdrawn from the last race to allow in Theresa. Theresa’s role being to frustrate everyone and soften them up for this “just get it done” coup Brexit.

  • There is a scarecrow festival currently in the Eastbourne/Wealden area. A concerned citizen has made a scarecrow of Boris. I was invited to submit a Latin inscription describing the man. I chose ‘ex ore Boris semper mendacium’ (there is always a lie in Boris’s mouth)