Johnson’s spot on: Chequers is far worse than staying in EU

by Hugo Dixon | 12.09.2018

Boris Johnson has said something which, for a change, is 100% right. Yesterday he attacked the prime minister’s Chequers proposal because it would mean “abandoning our seat around the table in Brussels and continuing to accept the single market legislation”. He went on to say this “makes it substantially worse than the status quo”.

The logic of the Brexiter-in-chief’s position is that, if he can’t get his hard Brexit, he should call for the whole project to be scrapped.

Johnson, of course, hopes we will negotiate a trade deal with the EU that doesn’t require us to follow its rules – or, failing that, just trade with the bloc on World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules. In practice, the only viable option would be the WTO one since the EU won’t give us a deal unless we agree a “backstop” to keep the Irish border open – something Johnson has described as a “suicide vest”.

Forget for a moment that crashing out would be bonkers. The problem is that Johnson doesn’t have a plan to achieve his goal. He neither has a way to force May to do what he wants nor to kick her out and replace her as prime minister.

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Sure, 50 hardline Tory MPs were plotting last night to remove her. “If she won’t chuck Chequers then I’m afraid the party will chuck her,” an unnamed MP told the Telegraph. So the Brexit extremists could probably summon the 48 Tory MPs need to call an internal vote of no-confidence in May.

But she wouldn’t have to quit unless a majority of the party’s MPs (158) rebelled or she herself lost her nerve (which might happen if, say, 100 voted against her). That’s much harder.

Even then, to grasp the prize, Johnson would have to be one of two finalists chosen by his fellow Conservative MPs. That’s tricky since he’s unpopular with his colleagues.

If Johnson gets through all these hoops, he might well persuade ordinary Tory members to make him leader. But that still doesn’t mean he would be prime minister.

The government doesn’t have a proper majority as things stand. Given that several Conservative MPs have already said they would quit the party if he became leader, Johnson might well lose a vote of confidence in Parliament. (Note that such a vote of confidence would be among MPs from all parties – unlike a vote to kick May out as Tory leader which would only be held by the party’s own MPs.)

Johnson might, of course, think he could then call an election and whip Jeremy Corbyn’s ass. Or he might think that it is best to wait until May produces a deal, torpedo it and somehow, in the emerging mayhem, grab the crown. But this is all an “if” on a “but” on an “if”.

So what if Johnson’s hard Brexit dreams come to nought and the prime minister brings back some “son of Chequers” deal which is even more miserable than the “vassal state” she has already proposed? Since he knows that’s far worse than the status quo, he should back a People’s Vote.

Edited by Luke Lythgoe

9 Responses to “Johnson’s spot on: Chequers is far worse than staying in EU”

  • Boris hasn’t got a plan, but he doesn’t need one because Brexit is a dream, a fantasy. The fantasy is shared by many others, including even Remainers, europhiles, people who think they are rational. The most common complaint I see everywhere, in the Guardian, the Independent, even here on InFacts, is that the government is botching the job. If they weren’t botching the Brexit job, therefore, if they were doing it properly, it would be the salvation of all of us, and all would be well.

    See my article and cartoon, “The dream of a wonderful Brexit”


  • Boris is interested in Boris. He sat on the fence before the referendum then decided his interests were best served by coming out for Leave. He is not a Brexit ideologue he’s a Boris ideologue. If there comes a time when he thinks it serves him to flip, he will. I think he’s gearing up for this. First say that Chequers is so bad even the status quo would be better. Then, gradually, back a People’s Vote because the negotiators have made such a hash of things. Then accept the new vote and get credit for being a true democrat, accepting the changed will of the people.

  • Screw the peoples vote, which may just confirm the first one, Whatever deal we arrive at, or no deal (unlikely), our country will be far worse off than if we stayed in the EU. Much is made of the “will of the people”. Excuse me, but it isn’t my will, or that of the 16 million who voted to stay. Remember all those old sayings :
    “Together we stand, divided we fall
    “All for one, one for all”
    and all the rest. They exist for good reasons. I can’t think of any old sayings that extol the virtues of being totally alone in the world. To paraphrase the words of Gerd von Runstedt “Stay in, you fools !”.

  • I agree with all the previous contributors ; yes the Peoples Vote is not THE answer but it appears to many to be the only legitimate way to challenge the result of the 2016 Referendum. John KIng’s article is also very accurate in interpreting the feelings of apparently a substantial number of people in the UK who basically want to return to our glorious and global past.
    However, for me, Mr King has identified the real problem which is one of leadership. The UK has been very badly governed when it comes to our relations with Europe. They consistently played the game of denigrating the EU, comfortable in the thought, apparently, that they would earn brownie points with the Eurosceptics for doing so but never dreaming for a moment that the UK would or could leave the EU. They have brought all this mess upon themselves and are now paying the consequences and taking the nation along with them

  • Although I am a staunch Remainer, I too would like Great Britain to return to its glorious and global past. I would also like to be fifty years younger. Achieving the dreams of Brexiteers is as unlikely as me becoming twenty again. In my experience, when a large number of highly educated and committed people are unable to find a satisfactory solution to a requirement imposed on them (usually by an ill informed and unrealistic management…but in the case of Brexit, by the so called ‘will of the people’), it’s because the idea was totally unachievable on the first place. Boris said several years ago that the UK problems were not down to Brussels, but to mismanagement, short termism, lack of investment etc, JRM says the benefits of Brexit may take 50 years to show. Farage now says ‘well I never said we’d be better off financially’, Fox is noŵ backtracking on his original it’s a piece of cake…….etc etc. All is not lost! But our competitors in the EU will be laughing all the way to their banks, and I am scared they will make it easier to leave the club than we earlier thought. GB’s machinations and failure to divorce with any advantages will discourage any other members from trying to leave for generations.

  • Look at him, with those dreadful teeth and his mouth open! He looks like a demented terrier sniffing faeces in the street. How can anyone believe a word he says?

  • Johnson is only wedded to Brexit if he thinks it gives him a shot of being PM. Remember his “two articles” decision on which side to back? The anguished look on his face on the morning of 24/6/16? The immediate bluster about “not turning our back on our European friends”? This latest gambit is about Johnson playing both sides of the coin, that’s all. The man is a disgrace to British politics and the Conservative Party – that is saying something!

  • I would absolutely hate us to return to our glorious past. For people like my family it meant long hours in a factory and the prospect of the workhouse if things went awry. Give me the post-war social contract to the glory days of Empire any day.

  • I think we have a problem with the lack of credible political leaders who can lead us out of this quagmire. Of the Conservative ‘rebels’, who would at least seek a sensible negotiated deal, none of them seems PM material. For Labour, Corbyn is a disaster with his fence sitting. David Milliband would be credible, but he’s not in Parliament.
    Vince Cable speaks alot of common sense on the economy and Brexit, but we need someone younger and more dynamic.
    Actually, listening to Gina Miller at the Lib Dems Conference, I think she would have the right vision and most importantly, the charisma and dynamism, to get the message across, that Brexit is a disaster waiting to happen. Pity she’s ruled herself out of Lib Dem leadership.