Boris Johnson's majority government could unify the Tories on Brexit—or split them anew. Will his Brexiteer MPs smell betrayal?by Jason Reed / January 6, 2020 / Leave a comment
The last four Conservative Prime Ministers all tried, and failed, to unite their party behind a common policy on the EU. As they were toppled by the European question, so Brexit will make or break Boris Johnson’s premiership: he may put the question to bed once and for all, or he may end up as the fifth casualty of the perpetual Tory European existential crisis.
Theresa May made the mistake of seeking an electoral mandate for her Brexit policy before she had announced what it was and allowing herself to become beholden to the whims of a small minority of the parliamentary Conservative Party. David Cameron before her signed his career’s death certificate by offering the country a blank cheque on the EU.
Johnson has avoided both of these pitfalls by campaigning on the basis of an “oven-ready deal.” Easy peasy lemon squeezy, deal through. That, though, is just the first hurdle. It only seems more significant than it is because we as a nation have spent years glitching in front of it.
The next stage is when things will become difficult difficult lemon difficult for the Prime Minister. The crucial future trade relationship talks which are due to take place this year have been discussed with worrying vagueness and brevity by Conservatives, who refuse to offer any detail relating to how they plan to approach these negotiations whatsoever. They speak in wistful, hopeful tones, but are horrifically reluctant to offer any true insight.
Even if the Tories had a clear-cut, rock-solid plan for how to go about this, as things stand, the timetable simply cannot be met, and something will have to give. While the date of our exit from the EU has been pushed back further and further, the end of the transition period—and the deadline for the conclusion of those all-important trade discussions—has stood firm at 31 December 2020.
That leaves the Johnson government with less than a year to conjure up a free trade agreement between the world’s fifth-largest economy and the and the world’s single largest trading bloc, from scratch. No international trade deal has ever been reached in anything like that timespan, let alone such a pivotal and indeed colossal one as this.
What’s more, this hypothetical deal…