Though it looked like touch and go over the weekend, today a grateful British nation can reflect with relief that Boris Johnston has resigned from the cabinet. He should have gone long ago in conscience. His prime minister, also in all conscience, should have fired him long since for a series of offenses, not least insubordination and his unforgivable handling of the case of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.
Some Tories, as is their knee-jerk reaction now, talk of “betrayal” of Brexit. They should read her document before trying to menace her into changing course or judging her practical, realistic stance. In any case her policy is, by Brexit standards, moderate and less of a betrayal of the national interest than theirs. She should press on.
By breaking cover now, Ms May’s critics merely show how isolated they are, even in their own constituency. From Boris Johnson to Iain Duncan Smith, they make a lot of noise, but less sense and carry less support. The Tory Eurosceptic wing – a large one, admittedly – is now split.
There is a new taxonomy. It might be said the new factions are the Conservative hard Eurosceptics outside the government – Davis, Steve Baker, Johnson et al – against the new Conservative soft Eurosceptics, inside and outside the government and instinctively supportive. On this side we find Michael Gove, Dominic Raab, plus born-again leavers Sajid Javid and Jeremy Hunt. Add them to the well-established centre and Europhile left – Amber Rudd, Damian Green – and there is Theresa May’s majority within her own party.
It is worth recalling that a majority of the parliamentary Conservative Party wanted to remain in the EU. It’s worth recalling, too, that there is no majority for a hard Brexit in the Commons, and still less in the Lords. As if she needed reminding, Sir Vince Cable, Ian Blackford and Ben Bradshaw kindly offered the services of the Liberal Democrats, the SNP and Labour rebels, should she need them, to get her policy – or something like it – past her own rebels.
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