Thanks to Boris Johnson's resignation, soft Brexit is now back on the table for Theresa May

Author : Independent News Agency

Source : Independent.

Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Iain Duncan Smith and the rest make a lot of noise, but less sense and carry less support. Tory Eurosceptic wing – a large one, admittedly – is now split
23:20, 10 July 2018


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. 

Theresa May might be forgiven for not initially rejoicing at the news, but her worst enemy is self-destructing. She does not realize how lucky she is. She and British politics are better to have Mr. Johnson back on the backbenches, writing mischievous articles and making witty after-dinner speeches to Conservative associations (those who’ll still have him). At some point, someone will ask Mr. Johnson if he was happy to sign off the Chequers plan on Friday night, and what had changed so much to force his resignation by Monday afternoon?
As her second anniversary approaches – itself a surprising benchmark of survival – the prime minister seems to have become inured to political pain. The human punch bag of Westminster gets through another punishment beating. Not strong, not stable, but durable, the equivalent of a children’s toy of yesteryear, the Weeble, which “wobble but they don’t fall down”. 
If David Davis, Steve Baker and Boris Johnson are the main threats to her premiership and to the “Chequers Plan” for a soft-ish Brexit, then she should count herself lucky, and so should the nation. It is true that there are moves afoot – public ones, indeed – to have her ousted as her party’s leader. When were there not some such plots?

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.
For all his celebrity status, Boris Johnson is not as popular among MPs, in the Tory grassroots or among the public as he once was. His judgement seems no better than it was when Mr Gove stabbed him in the front during the last shambolic Tory leadership contest in 2016. When they have a moment, Tory MPs should think back to what kind of an impression that made on the electorate before they think about plunging us into the same larks again, but now in the last stages of the Brexit talks. The nation would not forgive them for such self-indulgence.

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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