It’s been a rough week for Boris Johnson and his cabinet. On the international front, UK armed forces chief, Nick Carter said the UK will have to be ready for war with Russia following recent tensions in Eastern Europe over the migrant crisis. Separately, an exhausting couple of weeks at the COP26 summit in Glasgow escalated into a blame game over what many have described as a ‘watered down’ agreement, lacking meaningful climate action.
On the home-front, the UK terror threat level was raised to “severe” after an explosion in Merseyside, the Government faced a backlash from his own MPs after cuts to the northern rail plans, and endless grilling from MPs after his party was rocked with a ‘sleaze’ scandal, all whilst preparing for a tough winter in the midst of a pandemic.
The PM wants and needs a quiet Christmas and will undoubtedly want to avoid a trade war with Europe. Escalating tensions between the UK Government and the EU over Northern Ireland pose a serious problem for Johnson who won the 2019 UK election with the promise that he will “get Brexit done”, and with the polls showing Labour are in the lead for the first time since January, Johnson will want to quash any notion that Brexit remains unresolved (although this notion may prove politically useful come general election time).
It may be that the PM is advised that there is some political gain in the odd battle with EU leaders. His recent spat with Macron over fishing permits and the subsequent backtracking from the French leader may have actually helped Johnson to (temporarily) appear as a hero.
But the British public don’t want to hear about divisions between the UK and the EU. Most people think Brexit is “done”, and if there is any perception that disagreements remain, it goes to question the PM’s grip and competence.
Whilst many of the hard-line Brexiteers in the Conservative Party are urging the PM and Lord Frost to rewrite the protocol, their influence in the Party has waned recently.
Both the UK and the EU need a way out of the Brexit mess. Johnson, who is politically weakened and facing a daunting array of political and economic challenges, will probably decide that triggering Article 16 isn’t worth all the unpredictable consequences, but with this government, it’s difficult to predict what’s lurking around the corner.
The Whitehouse team are expert political consultants providing public relations and public affairs advice and political analysis to a wide range of clients, not only in the United Kingdom, but also across the member states of the European Union and beyond. For more information, please contact our Chair, Chris Whitehouse, at firstname.lastname@example.org.