Brexit will be Boris Johnson’s first and unavoidable test.
He pretends that a belief in “national rebirth” and a few Latin phrases will be enough to sweep away all the obstacles. It’s an illusion.
Almost the only serious pledge Johnson made during his campaign was that Britain has to leave the European Union (EU) on 31 October, with or without a deal.
That gives very little time from when parliament returns from its lavish summer break on 3 September.
Johnson half hopes that the EU leaders will crumble and offer concessions that he can proclaim to be a great victory. They have shown no sign of such retreats.
Michel Barnier, EU chief negotiator, said he looked forward to working with Johnson “to facilitate the ratification of the withdrawal agreement”.
Johnson says the agreement is “defunct”.
Natalie Loiseau MEP, a close ally of French president Emmanuel Macron, made a reference to former Tory prime minister Margaret Thatcher in a tweet. “Boris Johnson’s election doesn’t change a simple fact: we have a good deal and the EU will stand by it. The EU is not for turning,” she wrote.
If a sellable deal isn’t on offer, Johnson might hope to let the weeks pass and just let a no-deal Brexit happen.
But there’s a majority in parliament against that.
And there’s also a majority against “proroguing” (suspending) parliament to stop MPs blocking no-deal. Johnson has bitter enemies among the Tories who back the neoliberal, racist EU.
Many will be prepared to vote against him. But in addition he can’t wholly rely on the Brexit fanatics who shattered May’s deal.
An article in the Mail on Sunday newspaper said, “Allies insist Boris has now obtained clarity on his preferred Brexit strategy.
“But it isn’t the full-throated, turbo-charged no-deal approach his cabinet opponents fear and the ultras long for.”
The article continues, “‘The reality is Boris is going to put some bright lipstick on May’s deal,’ said one MP.
“‘He’s then going to tie delivery of Brexit to a huge regional investment package. And he’s going to say, ‘Back this or you lose the investment, you lose Brexit and you get Jeremy Corbyn.’’”
This is exactly the strategy that May tried. And it completely failed.
One possibility is that because he is facing a parliamentary impasse, Johnson might be forced into a general election.
But the left can’t just watch the Tories wrestle with their contradictions and splits. We need our own way over Brexit.
It isn’t to line up with the EU that helped to crush an anti-austerity government in Greece, drowns migrants and seeks to jail those who rescue them.
Unfortunately Labour has inched towards almost complete backing for a second referendum and for a pro-EU vote. That threatens to abandon Leave voters to Nigel Farage and even worse racists.
Instead the trade union leaders and Labour should be linking Brexit to working class demands.
These could include defence of the NHS, strikes and protests over climate change, emergency action over housing and other measures that could change the debate.
Now more than ever we need socialist politics against a viciously racist ruling class warrior in Number 10.
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