As UK readers will be well aware, Boris Johnson has finally been forced to resign as prime minister by a flood of cabinet resignations. Johnson’s record has been mixed, with strong achievements in some areas but marred by needless scandals and poor administration (not all of it his own fault). Though much remains to be done the race is on to find his successor, with a relatively wide field of candidates – see the tracker of MP endorsements by website Guido Fawkes.
From Briefings’ point of view (and we hope that of you our subscribers), the next party leader should have a firm commitment to UK autonomy on the world stage, particularly vis-á-vis Brussels. Number one priority here remains Northern Ireland. Johnson’s ousting came merely a few weeks after he introduced legislation to address the issues with the Northern Ireland Protocol into Parliament. His successor should not be allowed to quietly drop the Bill – as EU politicians would like.
That, however, remains a persistent danger. The press reaction to Boris Johnson’s resignation reminds us that the Remainer establishment has not gone away and was only temporarily quiescent. Several candidates for the Tory leadership are likely to scupper the NI Protocol Bill if they were to be successful. Although Briefings does not have a favourite candidate, we recommend wariness of figures who profess to have accepted Brexit but may embrace de facto alignment with the EU in the name of “making it work”.
One bit of good news though is that several senior American Republicans, and most recently, Mike Pompeo, have criticised Democratic politicians involvement in Northern Ireland affairs and said that the Protocol is none of America’s business. A Republican victory in this Autumn’s midterm elections would remove a thorn in the UK’s side.
International affairs have hardly stood still either. Shinzo Abe, Japan’s former prime minister, was assassinated on Friday. Abe stood for a robust foreign policy, structural economic change, and domestic social reform, and his murder is a shocking end to a distinguished career. In Sri Lanka, rioters stormed the presidential palace – the country has been experiencing mass shortages connected to global inflation spikes. In Ireland, the ruling coalition lost its majority – though a vote of no confidence called by Sinn Fein seems likely to fail.
Editor Robert Tombs has written an article for the Daily Telegraph analysing the bizarre decision of Clare College administrators to try and expunge the nickname of “the Colony” from one of its halls of residence. Briefings contributor Gwythian Prins wrote a piece on the personal side of Boris Johnson’s resignation in this week’s Daily Express.
Editor Graham Gudgin continues writing to the major dailies to clarify the economic situation created by the Northern Ireland Protocol. Here is the body of his recent letter to the Financial Times:
In his letter to the FT (July 2nd) Martin McDonald argued that the Protocol is not damaging the Northern Ireland economy. He supported his thesis by doing what no respectable analyst would ever do. Out of the five quarters of data on Gross Value Added from the Office of National Statistics since the Protocol was introduced in January 2021, he selected the only three-month period in which Northern Ireland performed better than the rest of the UK. This is outrageously misleading. If we take the whole period since the beginning of 2021, Northern Ireland was the third slowest growing UK region. It grew much more slowly than England and Scotland and slower than Wales, each of which were used as comparators in the letter. This evidence is more likely to reflect a rebound from the pandemic than any impact of the Protocol, but however one looks at it, it fails to offer any support for the Protocol.”
Why we really need to give a Frack, by Catherine McBride
Hydrocarbons have far greater benefits to human prosperity than detriments. The UK is lucky to have abundant shale gas and developing it will help the overall economy as well as many left behind areas. It is only by increasing UK and US gas production and exports, thus giving European nations a choice of gas suppliers, will the world be able to restrain Putin.
“Fracking should not be viewed as anti-green. Natural gas is a much cleaner fuel than coal. The UK’s massive reduction in CO2 emissions since 1990 have mainly come from gas fuelled electricity production replacing coal-fired electricity production; by better landfill management reducing methane emissions; and by outsourcing UK manufacturing to Germany and China.”
Fracts and Logic
Boris Johnson’s forced resignation as Prime Minister will be regarded by some as having come rather too late, on the basis that he damaged public confidence by staying in office after so many scandals. Yet the Prime Minister retains significant support from a vocal minority – and stardom in Ukraine.
Partly this relates to the distinctiveness of his personal style. Although Johnson benefited in 2019 from fatigue with wrangling over Brexit and public distrust of Jeremy Corbyn, his own irreverence, humour and positive energy also played a part in winning voters who had never voted Conservative before. This support fed into a sense that Johnson had a direct personal mandate from the electorate – rather than a merely primus inter pares as with previous Prime Ministers.
By contrast, few of those running to replace him have the same charisma or profile. Whether solid ideologically like Suella Braverman, Kemi Badenoch and (latterly on Brexit) Liz Truss, or more questionable like Jeremy Hunt, Rishi Sunak or Tom Tugendhat, none have the former PM’s dynamism. Many, particularly Tugendhat, have limited experience of high office – and even Sunak only attained his first ministerial position under Johnson in 2019.
More broadly, the same challenges that faced Johnson will continue to dog his successor. High inflation, ballooning state spending and a potential global recession are afflicting countries across the world, and there are no easy options to address them. The pace and cost of decarbonisation, persuading Brussels to see reason on Northern Ireland, and creeping culture wars add their own challenges.
And while Johnson was impressively scandal-prone, sleaze and gaffes in politics are unavoidable – ask Keir Starmer over the so-called “Beergate” scandal, for which he has avoided prosecution not without controversy. If Conservatives think that removing Johnson removes their problems with him they have another thing coming.
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How you can help
There is much about Britain’s relationship with Europe that remains to be decided. Our MPs listen to their constituents. Do continue to send them links to our articles, especially on matters relevant to your constituency – for example, in rural areas, articles on the threat to British agriculture. Alternatively, make an appointment to speak to them at their next surgery. Let them know what you want post-Brexit Britain to look like.
As Boris Johnson said in in his post-election address, it is also time for unity and reconciliation. Keep reading our posts and share links to our quality content to help others understand how leaving the EU benefits the UK economy and our own democratic governance. We aim to educate our critics to think differently and more positively about the long-term impact of Brexit.
A Cambridge PhD Student
Economist, Centre for Business Research, Judge Business School University of Cambridge
Emeritus Professor of French History, University of Cambridge