Five things Boris Johnson said that he may live to regret
New Conservative leader offered up several hostages to fortune during campaign
“No to time limits or unilateral escape hatches or all these elaborate devices, glosses, codicils and so on that you could apply to the backstop”
By hardening his position on the backstop towards the end of the campaign, Johnson has shut off the most promising route towards a compromise on the withdrawal agreement. Earlier this year, Conservative Brexiteers and the DUP were willing to back the withdrawal agreement if the backstop included a time limit or a unilateral exit clause. Johnson’s rejection of both has increased the distance he would have to travel to make a demand the EU would view as negotiable.
“Do or die”
Johnson’s promise to take Britain out of the EU on October 31st “do or die” has limited his room for manoeuvre in negotiations with the EU by establishing a deadline so firm that breaking it would amount to a betrayal of his supporters. Johnson claims that his clear determination to leave the EU with or without a deal strengthens his negotiating hand but the experience of the past three years suggests that it will increase pressure on him to accept the EU’s terms.
“I’m not going to take anything off the table, any more than I’m going to take no-deal off the table. I think it’s absolutely bizarre at this stage in the negotiations for the UK – yet again – to be weakening its own position”
Johnson’s refusal to rule out proroguing – or suspending – Parliament in order to force through a no-deal Brexit allowed his critics within the Conservative party to test their strength in advance of his move into Downing Street. Their success last week in passing an amendment that could block prorogation showed that they number more than three dozen and emboldened formerly docile MPs to rebel. This group will seek to thwart any attempt by the new prime minister to take Britain out of the EU without a deal.
“I have a very good relationship with the White House. We have a very important and close friendship with the United States”
When he was invited to defend Kim Darroch, Britain’s ambassador to Washington, against criticism from Donald Trump, Johnson instead trumpeted the strength of his relationship with the White House. Johnson’s failure to defend Darroch has deepened an already sceptical civil service’s suspicion of him. And his friendship with Trump could prove to be a double-edged sword as the US president makes demands of Britain’s new prime minister on foreign policy and trade.
“I think it would be the height of folly”
Johnson has ruled out calling a general election before Brexit has been delivered, apparently closing off the option of seeking a popular mandate for a no-deal Brexit if Parliament rejects it. It is a commitment he can reverse but as Theresa May discovered in 2017, a broken promise is not an ideal start for a general election campaign.