If you want a Christmas without more Brexit indecision hanging over us, Boris Johnson needs a healthy majority

If you want a Christmas without more Brexit indecision hanging over us, Boris Johnson needs a healthy majority

A couple of days after the European elections in May I wrote an article setting out the lessons I had learnt as the lead Conservative Euro candidate in Wales, which was published by BrexitCentral on the day that Boris Johnson became Prime Minister. My key recommendation was that whoever took over as Prime Minister from Theresa May should quickly seek to assess whether they could succeed where she had not and, if they reached the conclusion that this was not possible, they should call an election with the objective of securing a majority through which they could deliver Brexit by 31st October. Of course, this is exactly what Boris sought to do but Parliament blocked him. Now we are facing an election after 31st October, but I am not unduly concerned.

The truth is that since becoming Prime Minister, Boris Johnson has achieved something quite remarkable. He has, in an important sense, managed to become the living embodiment of British determination to honour the 2016 referendum in a way that Theresa May never did. He has done so by taking four main steps:

  • First, he has talked constantly about his determination to leave the EU, leaving no one in any doubt of his passion and fervour for the cause.
  • Second, he approached negotiations with the EU in a radically different way from his predecessor, initially not contacting them, so as not to communicate any sense of desperation, and then, when he did make contact, repeatedly making it plain that he would rather take no deal than a bad deal.
  • Third, he strongly opposed attempts by Parliament to block a no-deal Brexit.
  • Fourth, he did everything in his power, when Parliament blocked a no-deal Brexit, to call a general election with the campaign concluded by mid-October, to allow the new Parliament time to deliver Brexit by 31st October. The only reason why that election did not materialise is because Parliament blocked it – not just once, but twice!

As Stephen Bush acknowledged in the i newspaper on 31st October, regardless of what you think of him, no one can reasonably blame Boris for Britain’s failure to leave the EU by 31st October.

While I would not wish to overplay the parallels, as I have reflected on the way in which the Prime Minister has shown this authentic determination since coming into office in July, I have found myself thinking of the way in which his political hero, Churchill, became the living embodiment of Britain’s determination in the Second World War. It is easy to forget, but much of that determination was not expressed at moments of success but of failure and yet the British people saw it for what it was, an authentic, inspiring, determined resolve. It gained him their admiration and support and ultimately he pulled through.

In this election I believe that our national political instincts will again cause us to acknowledge the authentic and timely determination of our Prime Minister and give him the support he needs to get Brexit done. Similarly, I think those instincts will enable us to spot where that determination is decidedly absent.

Amazingly, Jeremy Corbyn is proposing that there should be yet another round of negotiations with the EU, another deal and then another national referendum next year (on which Labour will not take a position??) on top of going to the polls this week! As such, while Boris Johnson has become the living embodiment of authentic determination, Jeremy Corbyn risks becoming (at least on Brexit) the living embodiment of procrastination.

Quite apart from demonstrating a singular lack of leadership or conviction, which is less than attractive, the stated justification for this approach, namely giving the decision to the people, doesn’t really work because the people already made their decision on 23rd June 2016. To make matters worse, this strategy involves prolonging our national agony for at least six months.

By contrast, if Boris is returned with a healthy majority, our departure from the EU would effectively be resolved by Friday morning and delivered by the end of January. It would certainly be nice to sit down to Christmas dinner on 25th December knowing that the agonising and debilitating indecision of the last three years was about to be placed behind us and that we could move into 2020 with the confidence of knowing where we stand.

Of course, new challenges – as well as significant opportunities – will await us; but the years of vacillation and irresolution, that have done so much to poison our politics, would be over.