The last thing Boris Johnson wants is a no-deal Brexit in the middle of an electionby Paul Wallace / August 9, 2019 / Leave a comment
Powers behind the throne were once éminences grises, exercising their influence behind the scenes discreetly, but there is nothing shadowy about Dominic Cummings, who ran the Vote Leave referendum campaign in 2016. Now the prime minister’s right-hand political aide, he has hogged the headlines since his inflammatory suggestion that Boris Johnson could sit tight at No 10 if he lost a no-confidence vote in early September and call an election to be held after 31st October, making a no-deal Brexit a fait accompli.
The resulting furore has generated much heat as well as light. Jonathan Sumption, a former supreme court judge, says that Johnson would be entitled to hold an election after 31st October and that appeal to the courts would be fruitless because of the discretion allowed to the prime minister over the precise timing of an election. Dominic Grieve, a former Tory attorney general who supports a second referendum, envisages the Queen intervening if necessary to turf Johnson out of office, if an alternative government can be put together after he had lost a no-confidence vote, insisting that the monarch is not simply a decorative ornament in the British constitution. Malcolm Rifkind, a former Conservative foreign secretary, has said that if the prime minister lost a no-confidence vote and sought to prevent both parliament and the electorate having a final say on a no-deal Brexit “he would create the gravest constitutional crisis since the actions of Charles I led to the Civil War.”
The outrage is beside the point. Whatever the constitutional rights or wrongs of the scenario set out by Cummings, it is one that would be electorally disastrous. The idea that Leave-minded voters would be so grateful for their deliverance from the European Union that they would rally behind Johnson amid the chaos of a no-deal Brexit is preposterous.
Already, the economy is in trouble. The pound weakened today after official figures revealed that GDP shrank by 0.2 per cent in the second quarter, the first decline in output since late 2012. A no-deal Brexit will deliver a much sharper shock to sterling as the markets shun the currency of a country that has taken leave of its senses. Already the pound has fallen below €1.10, as British tourists in Europe are now finding to their cost; at the start of 2016 it was worth…