Mayday, Mayday! Boris and Davis Bail Out as Brexit Goes Soft

Boris Johnson

Credit: Andrew Parsons/i-Images via flickr

For all their faults, you sometimes have to applaud politicians when they show some integrity and walk away when their principles are tested.

Boris Johnson and David Davis, both firm ‘Leave’ backers and key figures in the Cabinet, resigned within the space of 24 hours of one another in protest of Theresa May’s handling of the Brexit negotiations.

It was confirmed on Friday that the Prime Minister intends to follow a ‘softer’ divorce plan then first envisaged, prompting Davis first and then Johnson to hand in their resignation letters.

The PM has moved quickly to fill the void, with Jeremy Hunt promoted to foreign secretary and Dominic Raab appointed Brexit secretary.

Even so, it has been a torturous few days for May, with bookmakers slashing the odds on her leaving 10 Downing Street in 2018 and the chances of a General Election this year.

‘Needless Self Doubt’ in Negotiation Too Much for Boris

As is often the way with these things, Boris’ resignation letter has been released to the media, with the BBC reproducing its contents on their website.

“Brexit should be about opportunity and hope. It should be a chance to do things differently, to be more nimble and dynamic, and to maximise the particular advantages of the UK as an open, outward-looking global economy.

“That dream is dying, suffocated by needless self-doubt,” BoJo writes, before predicting a ‘semi-Brexit’ to follow in March next year.

“We are now in the ludicrous position of asserting that we must accept huge amounts of precisely such EU law, without changing an iota, because it is essential for our economic health – and when we no longer have any ability to influence these laws as they are made.

“In that respect we are truly headed for the status of colony – and many will struggle to see the economic or political advantages of that particular arrangement.”

Rather than writing a ‘diss track’ in retaliation, the Prime Minister instead penned a letter thanking Johnson for his service, and praised the ‘passion that you have demonstrated in promoting a Global Britain to the world as we leave the European Union.’

Davis, meanwhile, is well known to have been unhappy at the government’s handling of Brexit for quite some time, and as the Brexit secretary that has clearly put him in an untenable position.

With discussions taking a turn that he wasn’t prepared for, Davis ended up ‘wondering if he really had a proper job’ as negotiations moved away from the UK’s initial idea of leaving the EU, and so he became the first – but not last – senior minister to resign their post in the wake of this sordid Brexit campaign.

Why Did BoJo and DD Get the Hump?

Their key issue is that the Prime Minister appears to be preparing for a ‘softer’ Brexit than most Leave campaigners, which include Johnson and Davis care for.

On Friday her meeting at the Chequers delivered a sense that the UK will be pursuing closer economic ties with the European Union that originally planned, leaving the pair with no choice but to fall on their swords in much the same way that David Cameron did a couple of years ago.

The ‘collective agreement’ would still give the EU power to rule over certain aspects of UK living, particularly with reference to law-making and changes to existing legislation.

Autumn of Discontent for May?

On the one hand, it appears as if the Conservatives are heading for disaster.

Two popular figures have hit the road, and they have done so in direct correlation with supposed ‘broken promises’ from their leader. There is the chance that, one day, Johnson or Davis will mount a campaign to dethrone Theresa May at 10 Downing Street.

But then, on the other hand, maybe the Prime Minister comes out this whole debacle stronger. Two of the most powerful rebels to her stewardship are gone, and the softer approach to Brexit could actually bring back some of the Remainers on her side, who will recognise the efforts gone into sanitising the EU divorce bill.

Of course, the elephant in the room is whether the negotiators on the European Union’s side of the table will accept the compromise….

The shambolic political weekend – at a time when the country should be on a high given the World Cup exploits – has appeared to do untold damage to May’s leadership; certainly as far as the bookmakers are concerned.

She is now odds-on with the sportsbooks to leave her post in 2018, with a General Election to be triggered this year a 5/2 chance.

Given the chaotic nature of the Conservative party right now, they will be desperate to avoid an election campaign for the foreseeable future.