Will Boris Johnson’s Tory majority ‘get Brexit done’?
The PM says ‘no one can now refute’ his ‘stonking mandate’ to take Britain out of EU
Boris Johnson pitched this as the Brexit election and has been rewarded by voters with a resounding endorsement of his vision for leaving the EU.
The expected Conservative majority of around 80 seats will allow the prime minister to push his Brexit deal through Commons quickly and get on with negotiating Britain’s future relationship with the bloc.
Indeed, Johnson told staffers at Tory HQ this morning that “no one can now refute” his “stonking mandate” to deliver Brexit.
But can he really “get Brexit done”, and what exactly does that mean?
What would ‘getting Brexit done’ involve?
In an article for The Telegraph in November, Jewish Chronicle editor Stephen Pollard said that this key slogan was the only one in the entire Conservative manifesto that really mattered.
Although the manifesto was described as cautious by some commentators, Pollard argued that it was “radical for one key reason: it promises credibly that we will be out of the EU, with a deal that has already been agreed... by 31 January 2020”.
That is the crux of the Conservative’s promise, and the central message behind Johnson’s sound bite.
If Britain does leave the EU with Johnson’s deal, the terms that have been agreed are those relating to the divorce bill, some aspects of citizens’ rights (for both EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in Europe), and future arrangements for keeping the land border in Ireland open.
According to the Financial Times, allies of the PM said before the election that his aim is to deliver a “‘cathartic moment’ by seeing the deal through Parliament swiftly”.
Is Johnson’s deal likely to pass?
Now that he has a majority, Johnson’s Brexit deal looks almost certain to be approved by Parliament. Conservative election candidates were selected at least in part based on their pro-Brexit credentials, so there unlikely to be any Tory rebels voting against the PM.
By contrast, Theresa May’s efforts to pass her withdrawal agreement were hindered by her razor-thin majority, which depended on a deal with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).
Without having to rely on another party’s support, Johnson will seek to get his deal into the Commons as soon as possible.
According to ITV political reporter Shehab Khan, the emboldened British leader is planning a minor cabinet reshuffle on Monday, followed by a second reading of his withdrawal agreement bill next Friday.
And would that mean the completion of Brexit?
Well, no. The withdrawal agreement is not so much the end of the process as the start of another set of negotiations.
As The Guardian says, “the day after Brexit, the UK will embark on arguably the biggest negotiation of the postwar era”.
The UK will need to reconstruct 46 years of trade, security and foreign policy ties with the EU - and according to Philip Rycroft, a former senior civil servant in the Department for Exiting the European Union, that will involve “a huge negotiation, probably four or five times bigger than the withdrawal agreement negotiation”.
Yet i the UK leaves the EU on the January deadline, it will have just 11 months to hammer out the basics of this future relationship.
Issues to be resolved, to name just a few, include formalising trade arrangements, access to crime-fighting databases, data protection regulations and the oversight of the European Court of Justice.
The Financial Times’ Philip Stephens says that Britain will then spend “the next several years trying to decide what” leaving the bloc really means.
“The argument will be about much more than the technical terms under which it trades with the EU,” Stephens adds. “It will ask instead what sort of nation Britain has become and how it can prosper in a disorderly world without a voice on its home continent.”
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So would we be out of the bloc or not?
That largely depends on your outlook.
As the BBC says, should the withdrawal agreement pass and the January deadline be met, the country would no longer be part of the EU. So in that sense, Britain will have “Brexited”.
But, the broadcaster adds, “almost everything else would still be up for grabs. Brexit would not be done.”
The Daily Mirror notes that the Conservative manifesto leaves the possibility of a no-deal Brexit on the table, as it commits to completing the transition period by December 2020. That means that if a wider deal has not been agreed by the end of next year, Britain would simply crash out.
In order to avoid that outcome, a wide-ranging series of negotiations will have to successfully take place in the coming months.
However, the Financial Times warns: “Such is the panic that getting ‘it’ done now matters more than getting it right, as if voters who want Brexit will not also judge the government on what comes after.”