Well, wasn’t it quite the week in Westminster with what effectively amounted to a mini constitutional crisis as Boris Johnson was unwilling to step down as UK Prime Minister until that it would become clear to him and his cabal of closest advisers that he would very quickly be removed by the Tories within hours.
For a man with an ego the size of Johnson, it was a fate worse than death.
As things stand, an initial group of eight replacements is down to two, with a new party leader – and prime minister – in place in early September. Or sooner, if Labor wins a vote of no confidence against Johnson this week.
So what about his 35 months in power? His greatest achievement, he and the party will tell you, was getting Brexit done.
That’s what he did, one lie at a time – even though it seemed for a time last week that he couldn’t make his own way out.
The Office for Budget Responsibility, the watchdog that officially oversees UK government spending, earlier this year flagged Brexit as a factor in the nation with the slowest growth rate of the G7 economies.
Right now that noise you hear are the cheers coming from Brussels and Dublin, where Johnson’s departure was greeted with more than an element of joy.
Under his leadership, relations between the European Union and London reached their lowest point. And the relationship between London and Dublin is equally weak – all because of Johnson’s desire to appease Brexiteers who have been driven into an anti-Brussels frenzy by a regime of false rhetoric, half-lies and fuzzy facts. sold as an ironclad truth.
On hearing of Johnson’s resignation, Irish Taoiseach Micheal Martin expressed personal sympathy for Johnson, but took the opportunity to call on the government to respect international law and the post-Brexit deal on Northern Ireland. North. Yes, Johnson intends to push forward legislation that basically says the “oven-ready” withdrawal law he negotiated with Europe isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.
The taoiseach suggested the Prime Minister’s resignation offered an opportunity for a reset.
“Although Prime Minister Johnson and I actively engaged together, we did not always agree, and relations between our governments have been strained and challenged of late.”
Anglo-Irish relations are collapsing
Privately, Irish diplomats have said Anglo-Irish relations have rarely been worse, dating back even to when Margaret Thatcher was in Downing Street and Charlie Haughey – a politician as soft on the truth as Johnson is now – was the leader of the Irish. government.
“Our shared responsibilities regarding the management of the Good Friday Agreement, as well as the nurturing of broader bilateral relations between us, compel us to work together in a spirit of respect, trust and partnership,” Martin said. “This is more important than ever today, and I would once again like to urge the desisting of any unilateral action, whether dealing with the legacy of the past, human rights or the Northern Ireland Protocol.”
In Brussels there were similar words, with Michel Bernier, the man who led EU Brexit talks tweeting: “Boris Johnson’s departure opens a new page in relations with the UK. May he be more constructive, more respectful of the commitments made, in particular concerning peace and stability in NI, and more friendly with the EU partners. Because there is so much more to do together.
Perhaps the starkest assessment came from Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald, who said Johnson’s Irish policy had been “entirely negative” and he would not miss.
If Johnson will not be missed, what about his Brexit legacy?
A recent poll in the UK suggests support for Brexit has plummeted – and Johnson’s critics believe he is leaving behind a mess of problems rather than the ‘certainty and stability’ he claimed to have achieved there 18 months ago in this “oven-ready” deal.
Brexit was a mistake: poll
According to the London School of Economics, trade relations between Britain and the world’s third-largest economy with 500 million people on its doorstep have become bogged down in new bureaucracy. Even the Office for Budget Responsibility, the watchdog that officially oversees UK government spending, earlier this year flagged Brexit as a factor in the nation with the slowest growth rate of the G7 economies.
According to YouGov, all parts of the UK now believe Brexit was a mistake, with 55% of respondents believing Brexit went wrong, compared to 33% saying it went well.
And while no one is about to suggest it’s time to reverse that decision, the reality is that politicians – certainly not the Tories and most likely not Labor – are ready to consider an alternative. Only the Liberal Democrats are proposing that the UK join the EU. But a quick economic solution would be to apply for membership in the common customs area.
In one fell swoop, the problems created by Johnson’s misguided Northern Ireland Protocol, as well as any other potential issues on the Northern Ireland-Republic of Ireland border, would be resolved. British businesses would have access to the single market, European goods would enter the UK freely – and the UK would still be in control of its immigration policies.
Georg Riekeles, a close diplomatic adviser to Barnier during the Brexit negotiations, recently said that Johnson never appeared privy to the details, but his decision to disavow the Northern Ireland arrangements so soon after the signing of the agreement surprised even the toughest officials in Brussels. .
“He certainly pushed the boundaries of what one would expect of a British prime minister very far,” Riekeles said. “He negotiated, signed an international agreement and had it ratified one day by the House of Commons, only to come back to it the next day.”
Now that he’s gone, who now has the backbone to solve the biggest mess he leaves behind. Maybe it’s a good thing he was only in Downing Street for 35 months.