Advertisement
Features

Three Brexiteers plot a coup

Boris, Michael Gove and a blue passport in human form – this is the trio that could soon lead the country. Alex Rankine reports.

882-Mogg-Farage-634
Taking tea with Nigel: the honourable member for the 18th-century is the Corbyn of the right

2016 Getty Images

Boris, Michael Gove and a blue passport in human form this is the trio that could soon lead the country. Alex Rankine reports.

"Will Brexit really mean Brexit?" asks Stephen Bush in the New Statesman. That's what's worrying "ultra-Brexiteers" following reports that Prime Minister Theresa May's advisers are "secretly mulling" over whether the UK could stay in some form of customs union. The deal would cover goods, but give us "the right to strike our own trade deals for services, which covers the bulk of the British economy".

Advertisement - Article continues below

Such talk has sparked yet more Tory plotting, says Tim Shipman and Caroline Wheeler in The Sunday Times. MPs warn that, if May persists, she "will face a coup that would install a dream team' of three Brexiteers'", with Boris Johnson as prime minister, Michael Gove as deputy and backbencher Jacob Rees-Mogg as chancellor. Rees-Mogg has accused the Treasury of "fiddling the figures" on Brexit and rejected a customs deal, while Johnson and Gove have vowed to fight the idea from inside the cabinet.

Someone must take the wheel

Plotting is all very well, says George Parker in the Financial Times, but "there is no united front among pro-Leave cabinet ministers on what exactly the end state of Britain's EU relationship should be".

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

David Davis, the pro-Leave Brexit secretary, has "formed an unlikely alliance" with Chancellor Philip Hammond to favour options that "minimise the impact of exit on business". And Johnson "eschews detail at cabinet meetings He just waves his arms around and talks about taking back control,' says one cabinet member."

Advertisement - Article continues below

The government needs May to lead, argues James Forsyth in The Spectator. But she "has become so frightened of putting a foot wrong" since last year's disastrous general election "that she's now extremely reluctant to confront any controversial issue".

The Tory response to this has traditionally been "regicide", says Andrew Rawnsley in The Guardian. Yet many MPs fear that the consequences of a leadership election "would be too awful". A new leader would be chosen by the membership, which is "rather elderly, predominantly male and overwhelmingly in favour of a hard Brexit".

Cometh the hour, cometh Rees-Mogg

That means Rees-Mogg is likely to end up in charge. And "a Rees-Mogg-led Conservative Party would be crucified in an election", says The Economist's Bagehot column. Yet with Johnson and Gove bound by collective cabinet responsibility, "Rees-Mogg has emerged as the leader of the ultra-Brexiteer faction".

The man is "the blue passport in human form, the red telephone box made flesh", and the party grassroots love him for it. Others nickname him "the honourable member for the 18th century". Yet Rees-Mogg is "popular on the right for the same reason that Corbyn is popular on the left". Supporters read their non-conformism as "proof of their authenticity".

Advertisement - Article continues below

There are striking similarities between the two, agrees Hugo Rifkind in The Times. "Neither are really politicians at all but standard-bearers in a great national clash of values." UK politics is becoming "far more American" in style, so "most likely, Britain's next election will be our first culture-war election." And that moment could be upon us sooner than expected, says Forsyth. The local elections are coming up in the next few months. If May leads the Conservative Party "into a series of historic defeats, there will be a reckoning."

Korea: Olympic truce, then war?

South Korea's president, Moon Jae-in, has "engineered a period of detente with Pyongyang that looks to have ensured" the success of the Winter Olympic games and "the peaceful participation of the North's regime", says Bryan Harris in the Financial Times. The Koreas will "march together during the opening ceremony under a unification flag'", and Kim Jong-un's younger sister, Kim Yo-jong, and Kim Yong-nam, the head of the North's parliament, are set to attend. A unified Korean women's ice hockey team played its first match this week. But "at what cost"?

Advertisement - Article continues below

North Korea hopes to undermine Seoul's alliance with the US by appealing to "southern sentiments about bringing together the ethnic community' of Koreans", notes Andray Abrahamian on Reuters. Yet polls shows that many younger South Koreans oppose "giving their hard-earned roster spots on their national hockey team to North Koreans", with President Moon's approval rating dipping due to the policy.

To be fair, "Moon has made it clear that his government will not be seduced by the Olympic spirit", says Christopher Hill in The Japan Times. "Once the games are over, the North will be facing a long winter of opprobrium and isolation."

Indeed, the situation could be even more serious than that, says Roger Boyes in The Times. If US press reports are to be believed, the "supposed Olympic truce may well be a short lull before a limited, but devastating attack on Kim Jong-un's nuclear arsenal". This "bloody nose' scenario" is allegedly being discussed in the White House. Someone needs to remind President Donald Trump that "limited" wars "have a habit of getting out of control".

Advertisement
Advertisement

Recommended

Visit/519858/how-long-can-the-good-times-roll
Economy

How long can the good times roll?

Despite all the doom and gloom that has dominated our headlines for most of 2019, Britain and most of the rest of the developing world is currently en…
19 Dec 2019
Visit/516758/beyond-the-brexit-talk-the-british-economy-isnt-doing-too-badly
Economy

Beyond the Brexit talk, the British economy isn’t doing too badly

The political Brexit pantomime aside, Britain is in pretty good shape. With near-record employment, strong wage growth and modest inflation, there is …
17 Oct 2019
Visit/economy/uk-economy/601429/mervyn-king-why-the-covid-pandemic-is-a-classic-example-of-radical
UK Economy

Mervyn King: why the Covid pandemic is a classic example of radical uncertainty

This week, Merryn talks to ex-governor of the Bank of England Merryn King about the pandemic and how to prepare for a future that is unknowable; the g…
2 Jun 2020
Visit/economy/uk-economy/601426/stealth-debt-jubilees-are-here-and-thats-a-good-thing
UK Economy

“Stealth” debt jubilees are here – and that’s a very good thing

We may not have had a full-scale debt jubilee, but many Covid relief measures quietly amount to “micro-jubilees”. That’s something to celebrate, says …
1 Jun 2020

Most Popular

Visit/economy/uk-economy/601427/covid-bounce-back-loans-and-inflation
UK Economy

What bounce back loans can tell us about how we’ll pay for all this

The government will guarantee emergency "bounce back loans" for small businesses hit by Covid-19. Inevitably, many businesses will default. And there'…
1 Jun 2020
Visit/investments/commodities/601433/commodities-possibly-the-biggest-opportunity-in-todays-markets
Commodities

This looks like the biggest opportunity in today’s markets

With low interest rates and constant money-printing, most assets have become expensive. But one major asset class hasn’t. John Stepek explains why com…
2 Jun 2020
Visit/investments/commodities/gold/601444/these-seven-charts-show-exactly-why-you-must-own-gold-today
Gold

These seven charts show exactly why you must own gold today

Covid-19 is accelerating many trends that were already in existence. The rising gold price is one such trend. These seven charts, says Dominic Frisby,…
3 Jun 2020