Sunday, 5 January 2020

Brexitwatch: What's Boris Johnson up to?


Three years ago, I was asking: 'What is Theresa May up to?' (see my blog of 9 October 2016) and never coming to any satisfactory conclusion. Now I'm pondering the same thing about Boris Johnson.

Mrs May would never have won any prizes for honesty, unless her opponent was Boris Johnson. The fact that you can't believe a word Johnson says makes it even more difficult to guess what is his policy (assuming there is one).

Like others, I even speculated that if he won a decent parliamentary majority, Johnson might sell the Tory Brexit fanatic ERG down the river just as he betrayed the DUP, and try to negotiate a less damaging form of Brexit by seeking to stay in the Single Market and the Customs Union.

Unfortunately, his announcement that there will be no extension of the transition phase beyond the end of this year suggests he's still firmly in the fanatic camp. Nobody much seems to think that any deal that does not seriously damage the UK can be done by 31 December 2020.

It's a bizarre move in that it weakens even further the UK's poor negotiating hand. The EU is under no pressure to reach a deal by that date, but now Johnson is, which puts him at the EU's mercy.

So why did he do it? Is the man who was attacking Brexit as madness as recently as 2016 now a fully paid up Brexit fanatic? Was it part of a deal to get Nigel Farage to stand down hundreds of his candidates, without which Johnson would not have won his majority?

Or is it a demonstration, that just as with Theresa May, getting a good deal for the UK is not the priority, and that his actions are posturing, designed instead to curry favour with those at home he believes he needs to keep him in power?

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