“Look, Boris Johnson resigned over Chequers. There are no new ideas in this article to respond to. What we need at this time is serious leadership with a serious plan and that’s exactly what the country has with this prime minister and this Brexit plan.”
That is an official comment from Number 10 in relation to Boris Johnson’s latest Telegraph article on (what else?) Brexit. It may not sound like a lot, but in context, this counts as a major slap down from Downing Street to Boris. There has been a massive reluctance on the part of the team around May to offer any criticism of BoJo, no matter how off piste he has travelled. So, what is in this article then?
The headline is “Victory for Brussels is inevitable. In adopting Chequers, we have gone into battle waving the white flag”. It displays both the best and worst qualities of Boris Johnson within. He starts the piece by comparing the EU negotiations to a fixed wrestling match, with the idea being we are now in a phoney war between the EU and the UK, and really, the EU are going to accept Chequers pretty much come what may. Whatever the truth of this (and, to say the least, I have my doubts about its veracity), it is an effective image for his readership to grab hold of. Boris is actually a technically decent writer and missed his true calling as a comedic TV show presenter who writes the occasional holiday novel.
In terms of the bad side of Boris, however, this is like an all you can eat buffet. The critique from Number 10 that the article contains “no new ideas” is being understated in the extreme. Boris offers nothing of substance here, and in fact, the article makes little sense, even on its own terms. The worst thing that could be said about it, in fact, is that you could change the thrust of it to an anti-Brexit article with astonishingly few edits.
Boris says that there are two main myths surrounding the “problem of the Irish border”: one, that there already is, in effect, a hard border in Ireland; two, that making it harder than it already is would be logistically impossible, even if the will was there to do so, and it isn’t. Then, in his closing paragraph, he says that we must fix the Irish border problem as pressing issue. But he just told us there isn’t one, so now I’m completely baffled as to what Boris Johnson is trying to say about the Irish border.
He offers, as the only thing approaching a solution to the problems facing the UK in the negotiation, this:
“The answer is to go for the one solution that both delivers Brexit and treats all the UK in the same way: a big and generous Free Trade Deal, with intimate partnerships on foreign policy, justice, and all the rest – as adumbrated at Lancaster House.”
Except, the EU has already rejected this – and Boris knows that. Further, the headline says explicitly that “Victory for Brussels is inevitable”, so how is there any hope for another solution then? Something is either inevitable or it can be stopped or at least delayed – it cannot be both. Normally I would be weary of pinning the meaning of a headline on a journalist, but this is Boris we’re taking about here – the idea that he was lumbered with a headline he didn’t like is ludicrous.
I want to make this abundantly clear: the purpose of this article is outside the scope of Remain/Leave. In fact, I want to pitch this to Leavers specifically now: Boris is not your saviour. In fact, if Boris somehow became PM, I am completely sure we’d Remain in the EU somehow. One of the reasons the negotiations are in such a state at present is because someone who had no idea how to even begin removing the UK from the EU was put in charge. There are Brexiter Tory MPs who have ideas – you don’t need to settle for another empty vessel. Remember for a moment that one of Boris’ big selling points was that he appealed to voters outside of the usual Tory electorate. With his actions over the last three years, he has destroyed that completely. So, he doesn’t even offer you electoral gold. Think carefully about who you really want to see out Brexit – trusting it to another no hoper will finish your cause.