Johnson’s loneliest Brexit

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The British prime minister faces without allies or cheers the responsibility of leaving the EU without an agreement

Before the pandemic swept through reality, there was a long time when Brexit belonged to every politician in the UK. To glorify or revile him. The exit from the EU monopolized the British public debate. “This is Boris’s Brexit [Johnson]. It is your exclusive property. As for me, I have already achieved my goal ”. The one who spoke like this last Thursday was Steve Baker. He gray brain of the European Research Group. The man who mobilized Eurosceptic conservatives to make life miserable for former Prime Minister Theresa May. The former Royal Air Force engineer and former financial analyst, today a deputy in the House of Commons, who organized the necessary support to lift Boris Johnson to Downing Street. The telephones in his office did not stop ringing, with calls from voters in his constituency and from parliamentarians allied in his new cause: the fight against the harsh restrictions that the Government intends to impose to curb the second wave of the virus. No sign of Brexit.

The United Kingdom stands on the precipice of a definitive exit from the EU without an agreement on December 31, when the transition period agreed with Brussels ends. Johnson has decided to launch his latest ordeal and get up from the negotiating table. He has announced to his fellow citizens and British companies that they are preparing for the idea of ​​a brave exit from the EU. But this time, no one has cheered its epic tone – “We will powerfully prosper as a free and independent trading nation,” it read. There have not even been any parliamentary maneuvers to force him to continue talking with Brussels, as happened last year. The truth behind the Downing Street strategy, which has officially insisted at all times that it wanted an agreement with Brussels even though it has actually headed towards the opposite result, is known only to Johnson, its star adviser, Dominic Cummings, and few plus. “Conservative MPs are so concerned with the coronavirus that right now it is extremely difficult to calculate how many of them would be for or against a no-deal Brexit, and the final form of this story remains obscure in any case,” admits Paul Goodman. That the director of the ConservativeHome portal, must-read To find out what’s going on inside the British Conservative Party, admit that Brexit is a past chapter that has entered a dark tunnel gives a glimpse of Johnson’s loneliness.

After Jeremy Corbyn’s election bump last December, the opposition Labor Party has elected a new leader. Keir Starmer has understood that his training had to get out of the trap that had plunged him into an internal war for three long years. It has assumed the exit from the EU as an inevitable reality. And he just waits and sees if Johnson fulfills – or not – his promise to reach an agreement with the community institutions. In the current context, with the United Kingdom mired in a deep economic crisis due to the pandemic, a disorderly Brexit would add insult to injury and would play in favor of a politician like Starmer, who has begun to gain an image of seriousness and rigor (of Prime Minister) in front of an averse Johnson.

“The prime minister claims that there will be no problem with a no-deal Brexit, that the UK can safely walk away from the EU. But the Conservative Party is the party of businessmen, and businessmen do not agree with that approach, “says John Kerr. The former Scottish diplomat and politician, today in the House of Lords, participated in the European Convention that drew up the draft of what would later become the Treaty of Lisbon. His is the authorship, in large part, of Article 50, which contemplated the exit protocol of some member state that, he never thought, would end up being the United Kingdom. “It is up to him to please his supporters or his party colleagues. You cannot please both at the same time, nor can you avoid the decision any longer. And the opposition is not going to help him, because he clearly remembers Napoleon’s maxim: never intervene when your opponent is making a mistake ”.

To further aggravate the situation, Conservatives are beginning to look with concern at Scotland’s growing independence sentiment. The latest poll by Ipsos Mori, released on Wednesday, reflects the strongest support for separatism ever obtained in a public poll. 58% of possible voters would support a break with the rest of the country, compared to 42% who would support permanence. “It is incredible that, in the midst of a global pandemic and deep recession, the prime minister is telling Scotland to prepare for a disastrous no-deal Brexit,” said Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish chief minister, upon hearing from Johnson announcing his challenge to the EU last Friday. “I ask you to withdraw that threat,” he said.

During the last Conservative Party congress, held virtually and soulless because of the virus, few paid attention to the Scottish deputy’s wake-up call, who reproached the Johnson Government for its disinterest in what was happening in the north of the United Kingdom . “It gives me no satisfaction to have to say this, but the cause for separatism is being built much more effectively in London than in Edinburgh.”

Johnson addressed his people at that conference from a lonely television studio, without applause or cheers. He outlined a supposedly optimistic future in which Brexit barely had a place in the speech. “It is no longer the Brexit of Theresa May. It’s yours. For which he made a campaign full of bravado that allowed him to avoid the stark truth. Until now, ”notes Kerr. “And you cannot expect much sympathy from public opinion, after your disastrous management of covid-19. If you add to everything the rise of independence in Scotland … losing a union, the European Union, may have a pass, but losing a second union, that of the United Kingdom? ”He wonders.

In the final stretch of the long history of Brexit, Johnson has been left exclusively with the flag that built his – until now – successful political career, and also with full responsibility for the success or failure of an adventure to which citizens already They will only pay attention if it ends up being an aggravation of the current harsh reality.

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