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Boris Johnson has got off to a good start, but is close to falling



Boris Johnson got off to a good start as Prime Minister on his own terms, but it's hard to escape the feeling that he's heading for a fall.

He has been in office for a month now and his blustery assertion that Britain will definitively leave the European Union by 31 October has strengthened the Eurosceptic outlook. Conservatives are experiencing a modest revival in opinion polls as former followers of the Brexit party of Nigel Farage decide they like what they hear from 10 Downing Street.

Now for the difficult part. So far, Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron have been polite, but have not offered any real prospect of a readmission agreement that is very different from that of Theresa May.


Donald Tusk, the EU president, was less polite and yesterday accused Mr Johnson of being named because of the lack of a deal. Brexit, if it happens.

And this weekend, at the G7 summit in Biarritz, Mr Johnson is dealing with the reality of talking to Donald Trump about trade. As we reported yesterday, the Prime Minister seems to accept that there are serious obstacles to a free trade agreement with the United States.

The problems are more complicated than the famous example of chlorinated chicken. First, every deal must be haggled line by line by the US Congress. It should be obvious that the personal friendship between Mr. Trump and Mr. Johnson does not guarantee a quick and comprehensive agreement between the United States and the United Kingdom after Brexit.

However, Mr. Johnson faces a more fundamental problem, namely, the one he must have. Get Britain out of the EU first. So far, the new prime minister has taken the initiative with windy rhetoric and airy claims.

But Parliament sat in office only the first full day of its 30 days. When MPs return to Westminster on September 3, they are reminded on a daily basis that their government, which has a fictitious majority of only one with the support of the Democratic Unionist Party, is severely restricted.

Mr. Johnson's government is unlikely to achieve a majority in the lower house. In other words, if he does not find a way to a revised Brexit agreement, he is likely to face a parliamentary bloc if he leaves the EU without his consent.

It is clear what he should do to overcome this impasse. He should return to the people in a new referendum on our relationship with the EU once the decisions are known.

However, we recognize that it is unlikely that he will choose this path from his approaching difficulties. It is more likely that the Brexit question will go back to the people in a general election – an election in which several parties may propose a new referendum on the European issue.

Either way, that's a decision that has to return to the people. We have to have the last word.


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