All Brexit outcomes spell the demolition of the oldest and most successful political party in the world —and they'll only have themselves to blameby Jonathan Lis / June 6, 2019 / Leave a comment
Hold the front page of the Daily Mail: Boris Johnson has told the truth. Emblazoned across Wednesday morning’s edition was his assessment, plain and stark: “The Tories face extinction.” At the first Tory leadership hustings the night before, Johnson told his parliamentary colleagues that the Conservatives would “never be forgiven” if they did not deliver Brexit by 31st October, and that that was also the route to stamping out the threat from Nigel Farage. All of this was accurate. As the Leave-sympathising academic Matthew Goodwin has put it, the Tories’ survival “depends on delivering Brexit.” There is just one problem. The Tories’ survival also depends on not delivering it.
The Conservative Party’s predicament is devastating, and devastatingly simple. Each possible road ends in disaster. Consider Johnson’s thesis. The new prime minister takes office at the end of July, beds in over the summer recess and then attempts to renegotiate the deal with the EU. The EU, which has said it will not renegotiate, declines to renegotiate.
Mindful that parliament will vigorously oppose no-deal, the PM once again requests an extension. He or she may avoid mutiny from the Tory backbenches—just—but the party will nonetheless be finished. The first act of the Brexit-cheerleading PM will have been to ask the EU to stay in, and Farage will gobble up Tory support just as he did in the European elections. This time it could be permanent.
So take the alternative. The PM decides not to request an extension. One of four things will then happen.
The first possibility: the October EU summit becomes a crisis management meeting as Brussels waves the UK off the cliff. We leave with no deal, the long-foretold disaster quickly emerges, and the government either falls or returns to Brussels on its hands and knees or both. The Tories’ reputation is shredded and its fate is sealed.
The second: parliament withdraws its confidence in the government as soon as the PM signals the new approach. Such “moderate” Tories as Philip Hammond, no less, have threatened to do so. The government falls before the October summit. Parliament launches a constitutional tussle to ensure that we do not tumble into the abyss on Halloween. A general election follows and the Tories are punished on both their flanks by Labour, the Brexit…