Boris Johnson has become Britain’s Prime Minister by appealing to under 100,000 Tory Party members including many hardline Brexiteer entryists through taking a reality dodging stance that he will deliver a new improved Brexit deal by October 31.
The European Union immediately promised to work with Boris Johnson to achieve an “orderly” Brexit – but that would mean ratifying a Withdrawal Agreement the incoming prime minister has already declared dead, a “suicide vest” that made Britain a “vassal state” to the EU – stuck indefinitely observing its rules with no say over them any more.
Brussels has repeatedly said it will not reopen the deal but Johnson has said fundamental changes are needed.
He has just 100 days to renegotiate all this with all 27 EU states including holidays, changes of staff in Brussels and in the UK government now the Tory Party has a new leader.
So how likely is Boris Johnson to succeed to bring back a better deal without the Backstop that guarantees the Good Friday Deal doesn’t collapse with a border across Ireland?
Can Johnson really achieve something his predecessor Theresa May couldn’t in her negotiations with the EU member states when he was actually serving as Foreign Secretary?
“Deceitful and reckless”
Well here is how Europe responded to the news that Johnson who had propogated so many myths about the EU as a Brussels correspondent, campaigned for Brexit with a lie about Britain’s coffers swelling, was actually appointed Britain’s top diplomat.
Germany’s foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, condemned Johnson’s conduct in the run-up to the EU referendum as “deceitful and reckless” and he called the new foreign secretary’s behaviour “ungeheuerlich”, meaning “outrageous”.
“People in the UK are experiencing a rude awakening after irresponsible politicians first lured the country into Brexit and then, once the decision was made, decided to bolt from responsibility, and instead go off and play cricket.”
The French Foreign Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, said despondently: “During the campaign he lied a lot to the British people. I need a partner with whom I can negotiate and who is clear, credible and reliable.”
His appalled reaction was echoed by Johnson’s audience when, shortly after his appointment, Johnson appeared at the French Embassy only to be soundly booed and jeered.
The Berlin correspondent of German public broadcaster ZDF, Nicole Diekmann, tweeted: “So, Boris Johnson, foreign minister. British humour.” ZDF’s Brussels correspondent, Anne Gellinek, said that Johnson was “properly, properly hated” and was seen as “the head of a campaign of lies” in the EU’s headquarters. Simone Peter, co-leader of the German Green Party, likened Johnson’s appointment to “trusting the cat to keep the cream”.
Frans Timmermans, the European Commission’s vice president, said that Johnson’s comments had been spreading “hatred” in a way he wouldn’t have believed possible in Britain.
Today reacting to Johnson’s appointment to Prime Minister, the European Commission vice-president didn’t appear optimistic about Johnson’s chances.
Timmermans said a no-deal Brexit would be “a tragedy for all sides, not just for the United Kingdom”.
“We are all going to suffer if that happens,” he told reporters in Brussels.
In a reference to the two versions of the column Johnson wrote as he wavered about whether to jump onto a Brexit or Remain campaign, before finally making his career-defining move to campaign to leave, Timmermans said: “He took a long time deciding whether he was for or against Brexit and now his position is clear.
“I think the position of the EU is also clear: the United Kingdom reached an agreement with the European Union and the European Union will stick to that agreement.
“We will hear what the new prime minister has to say when he comes to Brussels.”
But the problem is that the threat of a no-deal Brexit is much more of a threat for the UK than Johnson’s negotiating partners, which is why parliament won’t countenance such a damaging course.
“The costs of no deal will be seven times larger for the UK than they will be for the EU27,” explained Sam Lowe, of the Centre for European Reform think-tank.
“So anyone who thinks they can play chicken with the EU over no deal is being dishonest. It will be damaging to the EU but they believe they can weather the storm far better than the UK.”
EU figures have unanimously rejected the changes to the EU Withdrawal deal that Johnson promised Conservatives Brexiteers outright.
The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier also stressed that the Withdrawal Agreement was the basis for an orderly withdrawal.
Guy Verhofstadt, the parliament’s Brexit co-ordinator, said he was “looking forward to defending the interest of all Europeans”.
Lithuania’s European Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis was less dilpomatic about Britain’s new Prime Minister.
In a blog post entitled “Boris, you are wrong”, he claimed that “fake facts” of the type used by the new Tory leader were killing democracy.
Andriukaitis warned: “A functioning democracy demands discussion of us. Using whatever means to win political battles just does not fit the bill.
“Boris Johnson ‘virtuoso’ in democracy is the example of this in action – where priority is given to the objective alone and not the means of obtaining it.
“On this shaky path almost anything is allowed: cheap promises, simplified visions, blatantly evident incorrect statements on ‘EU imposed’ food safety standards.
“Can democracy survive this type of politics? My take is that democracy chooses only those principles that derive from it, defend it and legitimize it. The ones that stem from ‘fake’ facts are killing it.”
He compared Johnson to Boris Yeltsin during the turbulent years of his leadership in Russia – the origin of the “Boris, you are wrong” phrase used in the blog.
“It is a different Boris, of course, but there was something in the way of doing politics that was similar: many unrealistic promises, ignoring economic rationales and rational decisions.”
In a message to Johnson, he added: “I can only wish him luck in ‘taking back control’, spending more money on the NHS, swiftly concluding new trade agreements.
“In other words, I hope and wish that he does not give anyone a reason to use the quote ‘Boris, you are wrong’ against him.”
The leader of the opposition Jeremy Corbyn warned of the dangers of a no-deal Brexit and called for a General Election as fewer than 100,000 unrepresentative people had decided the new Prime Minister of Britain.