24 Jul 2019

New UK leader Boris Johnson facing Brexit conundrums

4:33 pm on 24 July 2019

By David Townsend

Comment - It was no surprise that the Rt Hon Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson MP won the contest for the paid up Conservative Party members' hearts and minds.

New Conservative Party leader and incoming prime minister Boris Johnson leaves the Conservative party headquarters in central London.

New Conservative Party leader and incoming prime minister Boris Johnson leaves the Conservative party headquarters in central London. Photo: AFP

Interestingly it was reported that the world's biggest conference of psychoanalysts was holding its biennial upstairs in the same building at the same time. Boris, as he likes to be known, from his jokey TV persona, is now Theresa May's successor as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and leader of the Conservative Party.

He applauded extravagantly and loudly, especially with the TV cameras on him when praise and gratitude was lavished on his predecessor, whom he had spent three years undermining. Mrs May was not present at the crowning ceremony and nor were a number of senior ministers. Some of those have already resigned and others like the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Phillip Hammond, are expected to resign. His leadership opponent Jeremy Hunt, the current UK Foreign Secretary, was a distant second. But he will be rewarded by a magnanimous PM.

Everyone who held a government job under Mrs May can be fired at the behest of the new PM as he creates his new government.

Some Ministers and MPs have viewed Johnson as a serial liar, narcissistic and incompetent (his time as a shambolic Foreign Secretary and profligate Mayor of London tends to support that view). And that his expressed views on the burning matter of the UK's departure from the EU does not meet the reality of holding prime ministerial office.

Mr Hunt, like so many other Conservatives who have expressed reservations about Boris' fitness to be PM has changed his tune. So too has Environment Minister Michael Gove. Three years ago he back-stabbed Mr Johnson, declaring him unfit to be Prime Minister. Mrs May filled the post.

Mr Gove now thinks him an excellent choice. Another who has become a Johnson fan is Minister for Work and Pensions Amber Rudd, who once remarked that "Boris is good at a party, but not the man to drive you home".

Ms Rudd was a firm opponent of a no-deal exit by the UK from the European Union, but now wants a job. Mr Johnson has said absolutely the UK leaves on the 31st October (Halloween) deal or no deal. He has also said that he will only have in his Government ministers who are prepared to accept a no deal.

And from over the water within hours of the coronation came a ringing endorsement of Mr Johnson from the other blonde-haired expert on alternative facts: Donald Trump. Apparently, said Trump they (the Brits) like him because he is "like me".

During the course of the "election" of Mr Johnson by the Conservative Party membership, Mr Johnson made a number of promises. Each will prove to be anathema to the different wings of his party. He faces the same problems as Mrs May did. With even less time available if he sticks to October 31.

First, no deal is now a real consideration for negotiation. According to EU negotiators Mrs May, in reaching her deal - voted down subsequently by big majorities in Parliament- did not discuss the matter.

If it comes to no deal it is likely to be voted down in Parliament. Whether that leads to a General Election or even another referendum is possible but only guessable.

Second, he will get rid of the Irish "backstop" arrangements. The EU has already said no to that. He has a probable majority in Parliament of two. If the backstop does not go, the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party, which gives him his majority, will vote against.

Third he will renegotiate a deal. Probably resembling Mrs May's. One the EU agreed after two years of negotiation. That is unlikely to pass a vote in Parliament. But who knows?

Parliament is on summer holiday this week, resuming at the beginning of September. That leaves only a few weeks until the newly-minted UK magic coach turns into a pumpkin.

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