Theresa May's departure will bring new momentum to the Brexit process, but there are plenty of minefields ahead for her eventual successor.
It all ended in tears. And in many ways, Theresa May’s emotional departure was very much a significant display of what is entirely wrong with Brexit.
May was never the right person to negotiate Brexit with EU figures in the first place and, despite a huge divide in the country (and in May’s own party), a big part of the mess that Britain is in now is ultimately down to May who just didn’t have the charisma to negotiate with Brussels, her own party and parliament.
Why now? Simply because she didn’t want to face the humiliation of her own party handing her a ‘no confidence’ letter and what leading conservative figures in the party are worried will be a “wipe out” in the European elections.
In the end, it was all about courage. May was weak and it is her weakness which has plagued the Brexit process from day one. Even her statement which she repeated over 180 times that the UK would leave the EU on the 29th March (on a 'no-deal' basis), which could have saved her, didn’t come as she simply didn’t have the fortitude of character to keep the word of the Conservative Party manifesto which was to leave, with or without a deal.
“Brexit means Brexit” will be a mantra which will haunt her for years to come, as, ultimately, May couldn’t deliver on her own promises.
All eyes now are on Boris Johnson who is tipped as a favourite to succeed ber by the end of the summer and might be what is needed to jump-start the Brexit talks once again, but this time negotiating from a point of strength.
The EU tricked May into believing that she had a good deal for Britain which of course was not at all true. The EU now will be facing a true Brexiteer-PM who is not going to blink in the game of bluff.
Johnson will threaten the both the European Union, MPs, and people of Britain with a no-deal scenario unless a much better deal can be secured which is not a trap for the UK to fall into, but actually, a real deal which works for both sides.
Boris’ appointment will set the agenda of a completely different tone and pace for negotiations with the EU, whose officials in Brussels must be kicking themselves today that they didn’t go with Emmanuel Macron’s idea of forcing the UK out of the EU sooner rather than later.
The delay which was agreed just a few weeks ago at an EU Summit will actually now be a thorn in the side of the EU which now has to face – for the first time – a genuine possibility of the UK leaving the EU with no deal, rather than the scenario before, which excluded this.
Yes, MPs voted against a no-deal scenario and one job that Johnson will have to overcome is to wrestle with this vote and put a no deal scenario back on the table once again. But it won’t be easy and we shouldn’t assume it’s a done deal.
Much will depend on the mood of the party in the coming days when the reality of losing many MEP seats sinks in. Many ‘Remain’ MPs in the Conservative Party are thinking that the polarisation of voters’ ideas – as some Remainers have lost the patience now and are moving over to ‘leave’ simply to restore hope in British democracy – is the way forward.
But it will take a prime minister of great character, who is respected by world leaders, to throw his weight behind something bolder, which will satisfy the Brexit camp in the Labour party as well as Remainers in the Conservative Party that Brexit is going to happen.
May I interrupt?
Much will also depend on the new team of negotiators which that PM will choose, with some arguing that Nigel Farage should be part of that lineup. Much also will depend on the EU, which, will feel some wind in the sails from eurosceptic MEPs in the European Parliament – which will have more power in the EU architecture as a direct consequence of the project failing, both as a single market and a political entity.
Johnson has one important strength which might prove to be useful in resolving an incredibly complicated political wrangle which has split the UK parliament down the middle with no common ground in sight. He is an arrogant, narcissistic character who is able to distance himself from etiquette and protocol.
He is seen as a wild card by the Conservatives and this breed of politician who can bully a Brexit deal through and try and take any political gusto away from a Brexit Party which will be preparing to pick up national seats in the next general election.
A second strength he has is that he is liked by US President Donald Trump which may well also be an ace for Johnson to play at the right time. But stronger ties between the US and the UK built on personal relationships will take a long time and new deadlines will be the first thing a new PM will have to set up with the European Commission.
Johnson will have to decide whether to embrace Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party or keep it at a safe distance. He will also probably prepare the country for a real no-deal Brexit which, although would cause serious problems of infrastructure and business, would not be the Armageddon which some analysts predict.
What is important now is the tone from both Brussels and EU leaders – in particular, France and Germany – in how they react to Johnson’s swagger which will certainly be a shock for EU Apaches who played with May as a cat plays with the corpse of a dead mouse it caught earlier in the day.
Critically, it will be the federalists who want to resolve the political crisis in the EU by grabbing more power – in terms of consolidating defence and raising the bar of how the EU operates around the world – who will decide whether there is a second deal there to be had. But it won’t be Junker, Verhofstadt and Tusk who will be the ones to cope with Johnson’s media gaffes in Brussels but a new posse of EU chiefs who will enter office unelected through a closed door stitch-up between the big political groups in the European parliament.
Today is the starter’s pistol of a trace of hope for rescuing a dead deal. A new momentum which could find a way for Britain to leave the European Union one day. But not soon as the 31st October deadline is not realistic if a new set of negotiations is to kick off.
Keep a close eye on the next few days for any signs of goodwill between Farage and Johnson, which could be a deal breaker on getting a Brexit deal.
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