Barely a year later, a decent chunk of that optimism has turned into frustration and excitement. Despite the fact that Johnson took Britain out of the European Union and won a landslide election victory, there are fears that the Prime Minister’s desire to end the Brexit story with a personal triumph is tarnishing his thinking.
In prepared remarks made ahead of a speech by Johnson, Johnson is expected to call for an agreement with Europe by October 1
However, some Eurosceptics are concerned that Johnson is laying the groundwork for concessions to secure a last-minute deal that he can call a huge win to avoid the economic consequences of a no-deal cliff edge. Others fear the recent rifts are theater aimed at making any deal appear diplomatic enough to dwarf concessions.
There is a basis for this fear. Johnson’s previous deal with the EU came after months of declaring that he would either renegotiate the May deal or leave the EU without one. The clock was ticking as no progress was being made on the former; The latter seemed inevitable. Suddenly, an agreement was reached in Brussels just 14 days before the no-deal deadline – an agreement very similar to the one reached in May, which many Eurosceptics, including Johnson, hated and voted against.
Johnson’s agile position on Brexit was less important at the time, as that deal only covered Britain’s exit from the EU, not the more permanent future relationships. The fact that Johnson held his nerve and fought back against Brussels was sufficient evidence for many Eurosceptics that he would do the same later.
People who have recently worked in government can see how this result can become a reality. David Davis, a longtime Brexiteer and former UK Brexit secretary, believes there are “three options that are equally likely”: no deal, many micro-deals and a free trade agreement. “If we are to get to option three, there must be a lot more of these public demands and counterclaims to pave the way for compromise.”
Tim Montgomerie, who previously worked as a consultant to Johnson, says, “They like being the people who pull a rabbit out of their hat at the last minute, which would be perfect for them right now. They don’t run marathons, they do Sprints are running, so not a long-term strategy. This makes a last-minute compromise on Brexit, which can be described as a victory, an attractive prospect, I think. ”
And as Anand Menon, Professor of International Politics at King’s College London, says, “Right now it will really look like a success if he gets a deal, whatever the content. It is absolutely the case that he is talking about the likelihood of not to make a deal. ” Given the intransigence of the EU, it will look like Johnson has achieved the impossible. ”
Members of Johnson’s Conservative Party see why this approach might be attractive even if it annoys the Brexit hardliners in his party. “There would be an argument with the Brexiteer purists, but it would have the vast majority of Holiday-supporting Tory MPs with him if he declares this a triumph, not to mention many of the former Labor voters in the north who voted for Johnson in 2019, who are less purist than conservative graduates, “said a recent Conservative cabinet minister.
This calculation, which Johnson could take credit for in a public Brexit triumph, coupled with minimal risk of setbacks from his backbenches, scares the Brexit hardliners who previously supported him, according to sources.
“Many MPs expect a big concession to get a deal. They are reluctant to call the government out in public, but stand up for it behind the scenes,” said a senior conservative whose work in the party is hampered by speaking would be in the file. “I think the government is not reaching an agreement to reassure the hardliners that they are firmly attached to Brussels so that when they do a concession they have the benefit of the doubt.”
Unfortunately for the government, the toughest Brexiters have been here before. “These things can no longer be hidden. The government has drawn such a hard line on sovereignty that I don’t see them pull a rabbit out of their hat and expect us to be happy. We are all experts become in this area. ” Stuff, “says another former cabinet minister who is currently lobbying the government on Brexit and did not want to be named.
A third former Conservative cabinet minister and prominent Brexiteer said: “Many sit on small majorities that could be blown away by a perceived betrayal, likely focused on an event like a concession that explodes.”
Eurosceptic on the edge
The word treason is important. Johnson has been criticized in public by Conservative MPs for making economic decisions during the pandemic that don’t look very conservative on the surface. The third former minister went on to say that some MPs are “very concerned about not knowing what is going on in the prime minister’s head” and that many “assume he will try to find his way out of trouble” to doing so will appeal to its new constituents rather than the traditional conservative base. They added that this perceived willingness to distance oneself from the grassroots on economic issues put longtime Eurosceptics at risk.
When CNN reached out to a longtime Brexit activist to inquire about an alleged treason, they exploded: “I don’t care what other MPs say and I don’t understand why this has given journalists speculation about regaining control , and it was clear to the Prime Minister that we would do this. I have nothing more to say about that “before I hang up.
The senior Conservative stated that such frustration with journalists asking questions about perceived Brexit betrayal may be due to that faction suspecting that Johnson can do little about Johnson making a concession and calling it Triumph sold. “If you are part of the hardcore, what do you do when it comes to parliament? You could vote against it, but then you risk the whip being removed and forced to sit out after Brexit. Ultimately, it’s probably better To be part of the happy ending and say that you were more on the right side of the story than a ‘Debbie Downer’ no matter how much you hate the deal. “
This could be wishful thinking. Johnson’s former enemy, Nigel Farage, recently wrote that a final deal will not be the “true freedom” he dreamed of. And history tells us that Farage is very effective in cleaning up disgruntled voters, building a powerful political movement, and badly hurting the conservatives.
There is still a long way to go before the conclusion of Brexit. The EU believes that an agreement needs to be agreed by mid-October so that it can be ratified in time by December 31st, which gives Johnson plenty of time to see for himself one way or another.
It is worth noting that Downing Street dismisses these claims as speculation, despite difficulty with talking. A senior advisor to the Prime Minister said: “We’re serious about going without a deal. We’re not bluffing. If the EU doesn’t take a more realistic approach to state aid and fisheries, we have to go on Australian terms. They insist that we are repeating the current rules that run counter to our status as an independent nation. ”
And there are many Conservative MPs who say their leader will act in the best interests of Britain on Brexit, whether or not he gets a deal with Brussels.
However, with Johnson’s inner circle tightening and his strategy more secretive – as usually happens when negotiations reach a crescendo – the coming weeks could be very uncomfortable for ex-Johnson loyalists who have long dreamed of true independence .