Brexit Brief: Boris to Bin Backstop or Parliament to Bin Boris?

Following up on his campaign pledge, Boris Johnson is in Europe to try to renegotiate the Northern Irish backstop. Meanwhile, domestic tensions continue to simmer as a mooted cross-party no-deal alliance considers tactics to bring down the Johnson government.

Johnson on tour

Following up on his campaign pledge, Boris Johnson wrote to the EU demanding the removal of the Northern Irish backstop from the withdrawal agreement, only to be swiftly rejected for failing to propose substantive alternatives. Now, as UK officials step back from day-to-day EU meetings, the British Prime Minister is visiting leaders in Germany and France ahead of a meeting with EU Council President Donald Tusk on the fringes of this weekend’s G7. For now, the EU position holds, with a clear message that the onus is on the UK to come up with alternatives to the backstop. Johnson’s runaway campaign win and attention-grabbing policy promises have boosted his domestic standing, but like many before him, the prime minister may find that there are limits to how far this will carry him in Europe.

Trouble at home

While Johnson jets off to the continent, domestic tensions continue to simmer. Earlier this week, the leak of a Whitehall report predicting food, medicine, and fuel shortages in a no-deal scenario led MPs and industry to ask for a detailed account of the UK’s readiness to leave the EU without a deal, while no-deal advocates dismiss the warnings as civil service scaremongering. When MPs will return to London on 3 September — unless they succeed in forcing an early recall — the mooted cross-party anti no-deal alliance will face down the Johnson government with attempts to seize control of the parliamentary timetable to avoid a no-deal Brexit. Within the maze of arcane parliamentary procedures of Westminster, there are many possible routes for rebels to take but none which guarantee success, and time is against them.

Cometh the hour, cometh the Caretaker Corbyn?

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called on rebel Conservatives and the leaders of the Scottish National Party, Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, the Independent Group for Change and the Green Party to support him in bringing down Johnson’s administration and forming a caretaker government which would seek to delay Brexit. However, the success of this plot to is far from certain as many MPs are unwilling to install Corbyn as prime minister, for however short a time. Similarly, many in Labour are unwilling to support a rebel Conservative compromise candidate, while both main parties would also like to avoid handing the Liberal Democrats a huge publicity boost by voting in new leader Jo Swinson. Even if a vote of no confidence brings down Johnson, parliamentary experts have pointed out that Johnson and his team might be able to block the formation of any caretaker government, leaving the UK with no-one at the wheel as it sails out of the EU and towards the sunlit uplands of Brexit on October 31.

 

The next few months will be a crucial test on whether parliament or Boris Johnson will set Brexit policy.

Download our Brexit Service Offering to find out how we can help your organisation navigate the UK’s and Europe’s ever more complex political and policy environment.

Download Brexit Service Offering

Related Articles

Access Alert: European Commission announces three-pillar approach to connectivity policy

Access Alert: European Commission announces three-pillar approach to connectivity policy

On 21 February, the European Commission presented its widely anticipated white paper on ‘How to master Europe’s digital infrastructure needs?’,...

21 Feb 2024 Opinion
Tech Policy Trends 2024: The evolution of GDPR

Tech Policy Trends 2024: The evolution of GDPR

With a major review scheduled for 2024, the EU will use the months ahead to reflect on where the GDPR...

21 Feb 2024 Opinion
Access Alert: Portugal imposes fines for non-compliance with type-approval requirements

Access Alert: Portugal imposes fines for non-compliance with type-approval requirements

Type approval (also known as homologation or certification) ensures product quality, safety, and interoperability, assuring consumers, businesses, and regulatory authorities...

20 Feb 2024 Opinion
Securing the final frontier: British perspectives on commercial defence in space

Securing the final frontier: British perspectives on commercial defence in space

In a statement on 15 January, the United Kingdom’s Secretary of Defence, Grant Shapps, declared that “The era of the...

19 Feb 2024 Opinion