Wednesday, June 26, 2019
In the race for the Tory peak is emerging: Boris Johnson may well be the new British Prime Minister – and thus the possible final opponent of the EU in the Brexit saga. The riot-maker wants the EU exit at any price. Brussels is already working on keeping it cold.
Boris Johnson has a great deal of experience in dealing with the truth about the EU. For weeks, the Tory politician toured in 2016 before the Brexit referendum in a red bus across the UK. "We regain control," promised Johnson. "Why do we send £ 10 billion net to Brussels every year to spend some of it on Spanish bullfighting?" Instead, you could put the money better in the British health system. Johnson railed against the "big, complacent, sticky armies of the establishment" and "senseless rules" from Brussels, "which tie the country". He successfully whipped up the British to make the referendum "Independence Day for Great Britain".
Meanwhile, all these promises have turned out to be wrong. Johnson was the main obstetrician of Brexit. He wove his voters by talking about blooming landscapes after the euro's exit. A "big mouth" calls him the Spanish newspaper "El Mundo", a "clown who competes in populism with the Eurosceptic Nigel Farage". It is only logical that this man is now likely to become British Prime Minister – and complete the seemingly endless Brexit saga.
The country is in a dead end: until 31 October, Brussels has given London time to ratify the exit agreement – or not. So far, the deadline has led only to the resignation of Theresa May as party leader of the Tories: Johnson and Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt compete for their succession, the winner will automatically Prime Minister on 23 July. But otherwise everything is still in the old Brexit country. Johnson, clear favorite in the ballot at the party base, still relies on the principle of hope. His goal is to Brexit by 31 October, "come what may".
Stubborn with his head against the Brussels wall
The EU is alarmed. Because all Johnson's suggestions are just wishful thinking. The first is to renegotiate the withdrawal agreement including the hated backstop for a hard border in Northern Ireland: Theresa May has crashed in several attempts crashes, because the EU categorically rejects it.
The second idea, a sort of standstill agreement whereby London and Brussels agree on an obscure article of WTO rules, to continue their trade relations as before, is "the most absurd of all Brexit fantasies," writes the British Financial Times: The WTO rule is not applicable to Brexit and the EU has also rejected this arrangement. So this leaves only Johnson's third solution: a hard Brexit without agreement. That's what it's all about, should he become prime minister.
A reminder of what the Chaos Brexit would mean this week was provided by the carmaker association SMMT: The no-deal Brexit would cost £ 70 million, the manufacturers warned – per day. The industry appealed to Johnson that the next British Prime Minister must secure an agreement that would ensure "smooth" trade.
In order to take the wind out of the sails of Johnson, however, the EU apparently wants to use the same tactic that the British have been using for three years in the Brexit series: delay. According to Bloomberg, EU diplomats want to keep Johnson out of Brussels as long as possible. They want to negotiate at the earliest after the British Conservative Party Congress in early October.
Otherwise, Brussels fears, the Tory hard-liners may reject the cosmetic concessions the EU is willing to take as inadequate and break the deal again. That was the last time: the minor changes that brought Theresa May back from Brussels were not enough to bring the withdrawal agreement through the quarreling lower house. May failed with it three times.
If Johnson wants to hold talks, Bloomberg, referring to EU diplomats, says that he should go to different EU capitals. The bureaucrats hope that the new head of state then realizes how closed the block is in the Brexit issue. Time and again, EU representatives have made it clear that the exit agreement is not up for debate. If necessary, the non-binding political declaration of intent can be adapted, it is said.
The countdown to chaos is starting
Not only from Brussels, but also from London gets Johnson more and more headwind. It is questionable whether he has a majority in parliament for his Harakiri plan to leave the EU without an agreement. Because that has repeatedly rejected the tough no-deal Brexit. A number of conservative MPs also voted against. They may even be prepared to overturn Johnson in a vote of no confidence and hold new elections to prevent unregulated Brexit.
"October 31st – come what may – is a fake deadline because it's likely to push us into new elections before we make Brexit," warned Johnson's rival Jeremy Hunt on the BBC. Those would be "political suicide" for the conservatives, says Hunt – and in the end there could be no Brexit at all if Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn wins.
Resistance to Johnson's Brexit plans is already forming. In the lower house, the conservative government now only has a majority of four votes. Two Tory rebels have already announced that they will vote against Johnson if necessary to avoid a no-deal scenario: Kenneth Clarke, who was the only conservative in 2017, who voted against the EU exit, and Rory Stewart, himself briefly in the race for the party leadership had begun.
In total, Defense Secretary Tobias Elwood says about a dozen conservative MPs are ready to overthrow their own government to stop the hard Brexit. With the following elections, the UK would probably slide completely into political chaos and London almost certainly ruptured the Brexit deadline on October 31st. Unless Brussels extends it – for the third time.