OPINION: Mr Johnson’s agenda

NEW DELHI (The Statesman/ANN) - Britain is poised to have a new Prime Minister in July without the people being called upon to vote for the next occupant of 10 Downing Street.

Yet those who choreographed the referendum on Brexit three years ago will now be innocent bystanders to the change of guard. The referendum on Brexit was momentous, but the rollercoaster narrative since 23 June 2016 has very unfortunately signified the failure of Theresa May, exemplified by the serial defeats in Parliament.

Boris Johnson, uppermost in the list of contenders, whose number is legion, has spelt out the contours of his Brexit agenda, which doesn’t bring Britain any nearer to the consummation to be devoutly wished for. On Sunday ~ two days after Mrs May formally announced her decision to step down ~ Mr Johnson has let it be known that he will withhold Britain’s £39 billion Brexit “divorce” payment until the European Union agrees on better terms for the UK to leave.

He has signalled a radical change in the overall terms of engagement. Withholding the cash, scrapping the Northern Ireland backstop, guaranteeing the rights of all EU citizens in Britain while stepping up preparations for a No Deal “disruption” in the wake of such a scenario are among measures the government would carry out if he were elected leader of the Conservative party next month.

It is an iffy strategy towards Britain’s exit from EU, and one could argue that the divorce could turn out to be messier still. Brussels will scarcely shed its pivotal role. In the net, British and European constitutional history might be still more tumultuous. A month before Britain boasts a new leader at the helm, Mr Johnson has warned the Conservative party that failure to deliver Brexit, with or without a deal, by the October 31 deadline “threatens the Tory party’s very survival…it is extraordinary that the UK agreed to write the so-called divorce cheque before having the final deal signed.”

It is pretty obvious that Mr Johnson has, for the first time, been remarkably robust on the emotive issue ~ “I think our friends and partners need to understand that the money is going to be retained until such time as we have greater clarity about the way forward.” Far from clarity, the persistent uncertainty has been more overwhelming than the change of guard at Number 10.

He is an early favourite to win the Conservative Party’s leadership race. As much is plain from the weekend’s opinion poll of grassroots party members by the Conservative website. He has a clear lead at 43 per cent with Michael Gove second at 12 per cent. Amazing is Mr Johnson’s selfconfidence in the midst of the chaos ~ “I truly believe that only I can steer the country between the Scylla and Charybdis of Corbyn and Farage and onto calmer waters.”

From Theresa May to Boris Johnson, Brexit and an individual’s professional ability remain the two uncertain quantities.

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