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Argument: Boris Johnson Doesn’t Want a No-Deal Brexit. He Wants to Win an Election. Boris Johnson Doesn’t Want a No-Deal Brexi...
When he was campaigning to become the leader of the Conservative Party and, by extension, Britain’s new prime minister, Boris Johnson claimed that the chances of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union without a deal were “a million-to-one against.” Yet, since he entered Downing Street, all signs appear to indicate that Johnson’s government is actively trying to increase the odds of a no-deal Brexit.
On his first day in office last month, Johnson filled his cabinet with hard-line Brexiteers. The Home Office and the Foreign Office, two of what are regarded as the great offices of state, are led by Priti Patel and Dominic Raab, respectively, both of whom are Brexit absolutists. Dominic Cummings, the director of the Vote Leave campaign, has been brought in as a senior advisor and assistant to the prime minister. Johnson has, thus far, refused to even meet EU leaders for discussions until they agree to completely scrap the contentious Irish backstop from Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement. Given the EU’s firm position that such an insurance policy is needed to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, if he maintains this position, a no-deal Brexit becomes the only possible outcome.
Although all signs suggest Johnson is leading the U.K. off the no-deal cliff, the likelihood is that he doesn’t really want to crash out of the EU. His commitment to leaving the EU on Oct. 31 with or without a deal, “come what may,” might appear to be an intractable red line, but in reality it should be seen as a deliberate challenge to his opponents in Parliament to stop him from leaving without a deal.
If Johnson was truly set on pushing through no-deal, he would have shown greater subtlety and gone about his plans more covertly so as to avoid alarming his opponents. Instead, he has set out to cause maximum panic, which has had the effect of spurring a cross-party coalition against no-deal into action: Within days of Johnson’s entry into Downing Street, it was reported that the recently resigned chancellor, Philip Hammond, held meetings with Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer, and other Tory rebels where they began mapping out a strategy to block no-deal in the autumn. This bipartisan group is so concerned by the signals coming out of No. 10 that it intends to meet throughout the summer to plan its strategy in detail to maximize its chances of succeeding.
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