Johnson will be given a fair hearing by the 27—but a substantial renegotiation is still unlikelyby Georgina Wright / July 24, 2019 / Leave a comment
Yesterday, Conservative Party members elected Boris Johnson as their new leader, and Britain’s 55th prime minister. On Brexit, he has pledged a number of changes, including losing the Irish backstop. The EU is bracing itself for an October crunch point—what are the possible outcomes?
Johnson’s victory will have come as no surprise in Europe. EU leaders, from Emmanuel Macron to the new Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, were quick to congratulate him. But not all in Europe are enthusiastic about the appointment: news coverage has been more mixed, with commentators calling him a buffoon, populist and close friend of Trump. They also question his willingness to work constructively with the EU. In the past, certain EU politicians have been similarly sceptical.
Few expect Johnson to deliver a clear Brexit strategy before the summer. He has said that he will withhold any so-called divorce payment unless the EU agrees to renegotiate. But in Brussels, he is a well-known figure; and some doubt whether this will be the Brexit strategy he sticks to.
Instead, they will be looking for clues: first, who Johnson appoints as chancellor and Brexit secretary; then, who he surrounds himself with at No 10. Time is of the essence so appointing advisers with direct experience of negotiating with the EU, or who understand the Brexit trade-offs so far, will be important, to ensure he can turn his campaign promises into serious policy proposals.
But with MPs possibly sitting for less than 24 days between now and 31st October, the EU is preparing for an autumn showdown. All outcomes are still possible.
The first is a revised deal. For its part, the EU has indicated that it would be open to further talks but has ruled out any substantial renegotiation for now (though the European Parliament’s Brexit Steering Committee will be meeting with the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator tomorrow to discuss options). But even then, the position is unlikely to change drastically: the best deal is already on the table and is the result of compromise. So if the UK government is serious about renegotiation, it will need to convince that changes can work for the EU and also MPs in Westminster. For example, a new exchange of letters that can…