Few doubt that Boris Johnson’s resignation yesterday was less to do with Brexit and more to do with his continuing aspirations to be Prime Minister. Therein lies his problem.
Johnson has form for putting ambition ahead of service, a lot of form. Johnson biographer Andrew Gimson describes him as “staggeringly inconsiderate of others” when focusing upon his own interests. His popularity with a significant sector of the public, may well have tipped the balance in the Brexit referendum. Though despite his vigorous campaigning it’s not entirely clear he believed he was saying. In February 2016, it was reported that Boris had written two Daily Telegraph columns – one in favour of Brexit, the other for Remain – before deciding which would fill his weekly slot. His decision to back Leave may well have been based on the belief that he would be narrowly on the losing side. He could then have fallen in line as a gallant loser, perfectly placed to succeed Cameron.
For months he has ignored the notion of collective cabinet responsibility to push himself onto the front pages. He seems to be sanguine about the Brexit shambles so long as it helps brand Boris. Yesterday, having agreed to May’s Brexit proposal on Friday, he did a 180 degree turn and resigned. He even produced a publicity shot, signing his resignation letter. History shows that those who show their hand so clearly and so often rarely reach the highest office.
The resignation couldn’t have been more stage-managed and a leadership bid yesterday seemed inevitable. A few weeks ago when business leaders questioned the government’s indecision over Brexit, Boris allegedly said: “fuck business”. It seems now that more and more people are saying : “fuck Boris”.
You don’t need a crystal ball to foresee the result of today’s cabinet summit at Chequers. There has never been any doubt, we are on coure for no deal and that means a hard Brexit with hard borders all round.
Either A) there’s a compromise that will work and all the brilliant minds in government have spent two years looking but can’t find it or B) there’s no compromise that will work. It’s B) if you’re wondering.
The problem is twofold. Even if the cabinet agrees to a fudge today it won’t hold.
The second hurdle is even bigger.
Let’s say just for argument’s sake, two years after the referendum, we agree a plan. It normally takes a minimum of five years to agree and implement a trade deal and in some cases it can take more than twenty. That’s if both sides want a trade deal. The EU doesn’t want one because it would likely lead to the breakup of the EU. So we have one year but we need between five and twenty from the date at which the EU decides it wants a deal, which is likely to be never. You do the maths.
By 2024 we might have struck some deals outside of the EU but we won’t be in a customs union or a single market. It’s not uncertainty that’s the problem it’s that the reality is so shocking it’s difficult to accept.
This is the Brexit election. It was called because of Brexit. It will define Brexit and all of the parties have Brexit at the core of their manifestos.
The Conservatives are asking us to back a hard Brexit. Lowering immigration at the core and would come at the expense of a trade deal if necessary. In Theresa May’s Lancaster House speech in January, when she warned that “no deal for Britain is better than a bad deal”.
Labour wants a soft Brexit. Keir Starmer MP, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, set out Labour’s approach to Brexit: “We will scrap the Government’s Brexit White Paper and replace it with fresh negotiating priorities that…will have a strong emphasis on retaining the benefits of the Single Market and the Customs Union”.
A vote The Liberal Democrats leaves the option to Remain. Leader Tim Farron said ” the Liberal Democrats are committed to keeping Britain in the single market. We believe the British people should have the final say on the Brexit deal, including the option to remain in the EU”.
That’s right, we can remain in the EU if enough people vote for the LibDems but the polls say that’s not happening. Perhaps people don’t understand or believe that we have the democratic option to reverse a decision that was more about the political ambitions of a bunch of old Etonians than it was about the future the 65 million.
Keir Starmer MP, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, set out Labour’s approach to Brexit, today.
At the heart of Labour’s plans are remaining inside the Single Market and the Customs Union or building a bespoke trading arrangement and tearing up Theresa May’s plan for a hard Brexit.
“We will scrap the Government’s Brexit White Paper and replace it with fresh negotiating priorities that…will have a strong emphasis on retaining the benefits of the Single Market and the Customs Union as we know that is vital to protecting jobs and the economy”
Starmer also outlined a new approach to dealing with EU nationals in the UK, guaranteeing their right to stay: “on day one of a Labour Government we will immediately guarantee that all EU nationals currently living in the UK will see no change in their legal status as a result of Brexit, and we will seek reciprocal measures for UK citizens in the EU”
Labour also plans to replace the Tories’ Great Repeal Bill with an EU Rights and Protections Bill, which will make sure that all EU-derived laws are fully protected.
Independent centrist Emmanuel Macron is the favourite to be the next French President, having come top in the first round of voting. He will face National Front leader Marine Le Pen in the run off election on 7 May 2017. If he wins at 39, he will be the youngest French head of state since Napoleon.
The incumbent president François Hollande of the Socialist Party decided not to run because of poor approval ratings. The candidate for the Socialist Party, Benoit Hamon received just 6% of the vote.
The presidential election will be followed by the for members of the National Assembly (the French parliament) on 11 and 18 June.
The full results of the first round vote were as follows:
|Marine Le Pen
||La France insoumise
||Debout la France
||New Anticapitalist Party
||Popular Republican Union
||Solidarity and Progress
Boris Johnson has been preparing for years to be Foreign Secretary. In a special BoJo guide to global diplomacy we remind you of how he has described the world leaders and nations that he will now have to work with and influence:
Barack Obama, US President – a “part-Kenyan” with an “ancestral dislike” of Britain.
Hillary Clinton, Democratic Nominee for US President – “like a sadistic nurse in a mental hospital”.
Queen Elizabeth ll – loves the Commonwealth because “it supplies her with regular cheering crowds of flag-waving piccaninnies.”
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkish president – “a terrific wankerer”.
China – “Chinese cultural influence is virtually nil, and unlikely to increase.”
Greece – “They make us pay in our taxes for Greek olive groves, many of which probably don’t exist.”
Papua New Guinea – “orgies of cannibalism and chief-killing”.
Ireland – St Patrick’s day celebrations are “lefty crap”.
The Congo – “tribal warriors who will all break out in watermelon smiles”.
Canada – Actually Boris seems to like Canada. It’s where he based himself whilst Mayor of London for much on the London Riots of 2012.