The new leader of Britain’s Conservative Party and prime minister, Boris Johnson already has heads exploding. Uncouth, unsophisticated, blustering, politically incorrect and possessing a strange shock of blonde hair; it’s hard to not compare Mr. Johnson to President Donald Trump on the surface.
Britain’s establishment – political, media, and business – are up in arms that a man without the support of any of them on either end of the political spectrum is now prime minister. Worse yet, Johnson is pledged to deliver Brexit come hell or highwater by the final deadline, even if there is no deal with the Eurocrats.
British Tories made a fatal mistake in making Theresa May their leader after anti-Brexit Prime Minister David Cameron lost the referendum to the rebels in his own ranks and Nigel Farage’s UK Independence Party. Cameron realized immediately that a pro-EU prime minister simply could not carry out a direct mandate from the people to withdraw from that very super-federation. But strangely, Tory insiders succeeded in picking fellow anti-Brexiter Theresa May to do what Cameron rightfully knew he couldn’t.
May did try, but without her heart in it, she was more bureaucrat than leader as she oscillated between the practical realities of negotiating with the EU, and the drive necessary to get the job done. In the end, the “soft-Brexit” agreement she produced could not pass Parliament where – unlike Canada – backbenchers have the spine to stand up to their leaders from time to time.
Now Britain is right back to where it was in June 2016 with a government compelled to honour the Brexit referendum and a prime minister unable to deliver it leaving office.
The difference is that the incoming government has only until this October to deliver it, and a prime minister that actually wants to do it.
But with so little time left it is unlikely that Johnson will be able to negotiate a mutually beneficial agreement with the Eurocrats that will prevent a major economic shock.
EU leaders were never of a mind to be particularly reasonable in their negotiations with Britain in the first place out of a desire to deter other nations from following suit, and out of a desire for old-fashioned revenge for betraying their march towards an ever more powerful European super-state.
Barring a fourth-quarter miracle, Britain will make a “hard-Brexit” on the October deadline and the economies of Europe will take a collective kick in the pants.
But this kick will not be the fault of British people who wanted only to reclaim their national sovereignty, but of Britain’s half-hearted former government and hardline Eurocrats that see quaint notions of sovereignty as an archaic leftover from a bygone era.
The European Union began nobbily as a relatively small collection of states come together as a free-trade zone as a way to overcome the bloody conflict that so nearly destroyed Europe for the first half of the 20th century. But a project designed to drown out nationalism’s worst impulses in the name of economic integration, transformed itself into a project determined to snuff out nationalism in all its forms. Culture, border security, even wealth itself, all became subject to the greater goal of creating the United States of Europe.
Once designed to promote a zone of free enterprise, the EU now takes money from Scottish and German taxpayers to subsidize French dairy farmers (sound familiar?).
The EU could have been exactly what Europe needed, but its ruling class played its hand just a little too far for Britain.
Johnson has an unenviable job now; deliver on Brexit and face the economic shock that will follow, but the alternative is worse; crawl back to Europe on its knees and refute the will of the people in the clear referendum.
It will take a leader with guts and a skin thick enough to fend off attacks from all corners. Johnston is one of only a handful of men and women in Britain who could do it.
Photo Credit: Financial Times
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