Many have complained and contrasted Boris Johnson’s blustering speech yesterday with the EU Negotiating Guidelines published on the same day. The PM’s utterance was long on the usual rhetoric about sovereignty, delivering what ‘the people’ voted for and a buccaneering Britain and characteristically short of any detail: the EU Guidelines are 33 pages long on detail. For Remoaners, however, the contrast might offer some comfort as being further proof that the Prime Minister is exactly what he appears to be…‘all mouth and trousers’.
In contradiction of Teddy Roosevelt’s advice, Johnson’s strategy so far has been to ”Speak loudly and carry a white flag”. Thus, as with the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration, Johnson might now be expected to placate the Hard Brexiters by bellowing about ‘global Britain’; threatening sexual congress with business and telling the EU where they can position their regulatory alignment. And, as with that Agreement, he might be expected to surrender to much or most, if not all, of what the EU requires as a condition of concluding “an ambitious, broad, deep and flexible… Free Trade Agreement”. If that strategy of ‘yell and yield’ continues, the question is, will it work or will the Hard Brexiters or his own announced principles, beliefs and promises prevail and force him to leave the EU without such a Free Trade Agreement?
So far as the Brexiters in Parliament are concerned, they have been diluted by Northern MPS who are unlikely to prioritise the claimed long-term benefits of sovereignty over the further immediate damage to the prosperity of their already failing local economies. Better still, let Remoaners recall that the Brexiters in the last Parliament were willing to betray their beliefs and their supporters by voting for a Withdrawal Agreement which breached every one of their ’red lines’, including throwing their allies in Northern Ireland ‘under the bus’. Why would they change their traitorous behaviour especially as some are now being rewarded by the Government for their treachery? As to the PM’s principles, beliefs and promises, Remoaners should, perhaps, be comforted by the fact that to date his track record has been that of an unprincipled and mendacious chancer intent on gaining and hanging on to power. Why, they might ask themselves, would such a man risk the unpopularity that would likely follow a truly Hard Brexit when a Bull Shit Brexit, which carried none of those risks, would serve his purpose.
If the PM’s strategy of ‘bluster and bend’ continues, we might expect the pantomime of faux fury, demented demands and appeals to democracy, patriotism and a history-that-never-was to be ramped up in setting the scene for the PM and the Parliamentary Brexiters to dress up for a victory parade while signing up to a surrender.
Of course, ‘bluster and bend’ may give way to a principled Hard Brexit but that would require a true change of character, direction and habit by the PM and the members of the ‘Parliamentary Brexit Party’ who now sit on both his front and backbenches.