by Brendan Donnelly, Director, The Federal Trust
9th July 2019
Much justified criticism has been heaped upon Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt for the unrealistic European policies they have promised the Conservative membership in the current leadership contest. It is not however always sufficiently understood how necessary such unrealistic promises are in order to win over the current Conservative membership; and how important these promises will be, once given, for the European policies pursued in government by Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt.
Both the candidates for the Conservative leadership will be well aware from personal experience of the attitudes among the Conservative membership starkly revealed in the
Brexiters first, Conservatives second
For Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt
It is probable that both Hunt and Johnson are aware of the economic and political disruption a “no deal” Brexit will involve. For that reason, both of them have been careful to avoid direct advocacy of such a course. Instead, they have claimed to believe that their superior negotiating skills will enable the rapid renegotiation of the Withdrawal Agreement in such a way as to make it acceptable to Parliament and the Conservative Party before 31st October. Whether this is deliberate mendacity or crippling self-delusion can only be a matter for speculation. In any event, these hopes bear no relation to reality. The Withdrawal Agreement, containing
If, as is likely but not entirely certain, Boris Johnson becomes Prime Minister in the last week of July, it is probable that he will be able to pass the month of August pretending to renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement. His supporters in the Conservative press will be happy to accept for at least a few weeks confected stories about divisions within the EU, fear in Ireland of a hard border and looming budgetary chaos for the EU caused by “no deal.” When Parliament reconvenes in early September however, this charade will have reached its natural conclusion. Both Johnson and MPs hostile to “no deal” will be confronted with important and painful decisions.
What will happen in September?
In early September, Johnson as Prime Minister will have three possible options for advancing his party’s existential agenda of leaving the EU by 31st October, first to represent the Withdrawal Agreement to Parliament and succeed in having it passed; second to call a General Election for mid-October; or third simply to await the advent of Brexit with “no deal” on 31st October, thus defying the majority of MPs hostile to such an outcome. There seems little prospect of being able to reverse the preceding Parliamentary majorities against a largely unchanged Withdrawal Agreement; and a General Election before Brexit has occurred would give an unwelcome political opportunity to the Brexit Party, which could expect to make enormous inroads into the Conservative vote as the purist advocate of “no deal.” For all its dangers in the longer term, Boris Johnson may well conclude in September that his best course of action is simply to await the end of the extension negotiated by his predecessor and hope that the impact of leaving the EU without an agreement is less catastrophic in the short term
Many of the opponents of “no deal” in the House of Commons are already making plans on the basis that Boris Johnson will opt to take the risks inherent in leaving the EU without a Withdrawal Agreement. Bizarrely, the main party of opposition, the Labour Party, is still mired in slow-moving internal controversy about Europe and seems content to take its cue from the minority of Conservative dissidents, on whom all political attention can be expected to focus in early September. While it is clear that many Conservative MPs are uneasy about the economic and political impact of “no deal,” different estimates exist of the number of these MPs willing to take radical action to prevent the outcome they fear. The understandable if
It is however precisely the fragmentary and divided nature of the potential Conservative opposition to him that gives Boris Johnson his best chance to ensure a “no deal” Brexit. Dominic Grieve has said publicly that he would be prepared to vote in a Vote of Confidence against a Conservative government pursuing “no deal.” Other Conservative MPs have excluded any such possibility. There is a danger that, lacking the votes to bring about a Vote of No Confidence, Conservatives hostile to “no deal” will find themselves limited to indirect and procedural
A way out of the nervous breakdown
The former head of MI6, Sir John Sawers, recently described the United Kingdom as currently suffering a political nervous breakdown. For the past twenty
Via – Social Europe
The Brexit revolution eats its Conservative parents
by Brendan Donnelly, Director, The Federal Trust