If Boris Johnson is to save his job as Prime Minister, it seems to us that he will have to return to the pro-freedom principles that propelled him to power during the Brexit campaign. He moved into the van diverting the pro-Brexit argument from resentment over immigration and Europe to the promise of freedom and limited government. This is the argument that we believe will salvage his tattered prospects.
Which means that this opportunity is hidden in the negotiations that just started today between Britain and the European Union. They are ostensibly on the trade barriers between the UK and Ireland. They encompass, however, a larger issue: the EU’s insistence on maintaining, via the European High Court, some power over Britain?? that is to say the very cause, roughly speaking, which brought Mr. Johnson to Downing Street.
So far, UK Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss is holding firm. Britain wants the European High Court stripped of any residual role in disputes that may arise over Brexit. The Brussels mega-state wants to retain this authority. The row, which is playing out in talks at Chevening House in England, marks a chance for Mr Johnson to regain control of the Brexit narrative?? and his own premiership in jeopardy.
It comes amid calls for Mr Johnson to step down following the revelation that he attended a garden party deep in the Covid pandemic lockdown. More importantly, it is a moment to mark how and why Brexit happened. It started out as what many (not the Sun) considered a Don Quixote enterprise, dominated in the opening innings by the estimable Nigel Farage. He got bogged down in his focus on immigration.
The Brexit message has been too easily caricatured as ‘too many foreigners,’? as an unsympathetic Guardian headline read. Even we, ardently pro-Brexit from the start, wondered if the cause would succeed in the 2016 referendum. Then Margarget Thatcher’s former chancellor, Nigel Lawson, took over as chair of Vote Leave and made a powerful argument about how freedom from Brussels would spark innovation and Britain’s economic revival.
Mr Johnson took this theme of economic freedom and embroidered it with his own inimitable style, outlining in haunting rhetoric the sunny highlands of freedom that awaited a post-Brexit Britain. Brexit won. Yet no sooner had he won a great mandate than he began to compromise the very principles on which he had called Britain to independence, and his fortunes began to recede.
This was all wonderfully covered by our Brexit columnist, Stephen MacLean. Yet Mr Johnson continued to default, and when Covid gave him the opportunity, he, like his counterparts in Europe and America, opted for all state options. These included work-from-home orders, mask mandates, so-called vaccine passports and mandatory lockdowns?? the last of which Mr Johnson broke while attending an outdoor party.
Somewhere in there, Bojo lost track of Brexit. So now his fate may well be in the hands of Ms Truss, who replaced hard Brexiteer David Frost. For our taste, she was a little too welcoming towards her European counterpart. She greeted the rascal with a ??warmer tone,?? presenting him ??an all-British dinner of Scottish smoked salmon, Welsh lamb and Kentish apple pie, ?? Associated Press reports.
Hopefully Boris Johnson and Britain prevail in the demand that the EU remove its highest court from its role in resolving any dispute over the Brexit deal. What is at stake is all that was achieved in the 1980s and what a future with the Commonwealth might bring. Dame Thatcher herself made that point in 2001 in Plymouth, and Baron Lawson called Brexit “a chance to end the Thatcher revolution”.
Image: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor, via Reuters