How will Boris Johnson bring about Brexit?

Boris Johnson ANDY RAIN/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock ©Rex Features
We’ll leave, do or die, says Johnson. The latter might prove easier

It’s far from obvious how Boris Johnson, the man likely to be the next PM, will achieve his goals.

The anti-Brexiteers’ “Stop Boris” campaign has been “ferocious” of late, says Leo McKinstry in The Daily Telegraph. The “stitch-ups” have come in the form of the “shambolic BBC debate” when Tory leadership favourite Boris Johnson was challenged on Islamophobia, and the “firestorm” over his row with his girlfriend, a controversy “stoked by apparently politically motivated neighbours” who passed their recording of the incident to The Guardian. Much of the damage is “self-inflicted”, but the answer is not for “Team Boris” to hide their candidate away, as they had been doing. Johnson’s “greatest assets are his charisma, his celebrity and his capacity to cheer people up”. He is the only realistic deliverer of Brexit, and he needs to provide some “realistic answers”.

So far, those answers have not been convincing. Despite his promise on talkRADIO that Britain would definitely leave Britain on 31 October, “do or die” (a sentiment shared by most Tory party members and the reason he will win the leadership contest, notes Allison Pearson in The Daily Telegraph), he failed to explain how he would “overcome the reality” that the majority of the House of Commons are opposed to a no-deal Brexit.

A timetabling headache

Much of what Johnson has said over the past few days on Brexit is either “ambiguous or inaccurate”, says James Blitz in the Financial Times. “The timetable of Westminster and Brussels will not allow anything substantial to be agreed” by 31 October – even if the EU was willing (which of course it isn’t, notes The Times). In the event of a no-deal Brexit, Johnson’s claim that it won’t be “too bad” because the UK will “simply negotiate a free-trade agreement” during the “implementation period” is false. The implementation period is part of the Withdrawal Agreement. No deal equals no Withdrawal Agreement and therefore no implementation period. Finally, article 24 of the general agreement on tariffs and trade will not ensure, as Johnson says, that there will be no tariffs on UK exports to the EU in the event of no deal. World Trade Organisation rules dictate that the UK would have to impose the same tariffs on goods from the EU as from other countries.

If Johnson has a timetabling headache, so do the Tory MPs threatening to bring down the government if their new leader attempts a no-deal Brexit, says Maddy Thimont-Jack on CapX. If they team up with the opposition and manage to get a vote of no confidence in the government passed, a 14-day period is triggered in which either the incumbent or an alternative government must win the confidence of MPs. If they don’t, a general election will take place. There are a number of stumbling blocks with this procedure, but even if they were overcome, to give enough time for the 14-day period to expire as well as the 25 working-day campaigning period, a vote would need to be held the moment MPs came back from recess in early September.

EU leaders now think the UK will “crash out of the EU on 31 October unless the deal is ratified or the new PM calls a second referendum or election this summer”, says Jon Henley in The Guardian. Should an early election be called, Nigel Farage has said he would be interested in “local coalition pacts” with the Tories to ensure a no-deal Brexit. Labour’s Hilary Benn has demanded that Labour unambiguously back a second referendum, and deputy leader Tom Watson has said the party would “have to back Remain to survive”. In the event of an election, we are therefore likely to end up with a new Tory government backed by the Brexit Party, or a pro-Remain Labour government backed by the Liberal Democrats and the SNP.