By Campaign Agent Joe Monk
Despite supporters of Boris Johnson being left disappointed with his resignation from the cabinet, there was solace in the fact that a `Johnson` still remained within the operations of the government. That, however, now ceases to exist. Jo Johnson has followed in his older brothers’ footsteps and has resigned from the government with immediate effect. It’s understandable that many may not be fully aware of the role Jo Johnson plays in contemporary politics given the accolade of press coverage and popularity of Boris, and that most may just refer to Jo as Boris’ younger brother rather than the right honourable member for Orpington. Nevertheless, his action this week has certainly provoked much media coverage, and seeks to fragment the government even further.
He has been open in his account for leaving, declaring that he couldn’t support Theresa May’s Brexit deal, and was quoted as saying it is essentially a choice “between vassalage and chaos.” This is the Brexit deal that is due to come back to parliament in the coming weeks, thus it provides little faith for the country, particularly those that voted for Brexit, that a government minister has abruptly departed from his position. More to this, he has declared that the withdrawal agreement is “a terrible mistake” which would leave the country in economic turmoil with uncertainty for business, in comparison with a no-deal Brexit that would have profound consequences for Britain.
This has almost certainly generated impetus for calls for a second referendum, or people’s vote; it could be the catalyst that those in favour of a second vote need to push forward their argument. The resignation further compliments the case for another referendum given the recent study conducted which was broadcasted on channel 4 earlier in the week. This was a big showdown event between the figureheads of the leave and remain camps. The results from the opinion poll revealed that more than four in ten Britons support having another say on the outcome from the Brexit negotiations.
In spite of the divisions within the Conservative party, and resignations occurring left, right and centre, a resignation occurring now, so close to the end of the negotiations, is surprising.
It has come coincidentally at the same time that the Minister for the Cabinet Office, David Lidington, aimed to provide assurance that the government remains confident of getting a Brexit deal through parliament. This does seem to remove any realist perspective amongst the senior members of government. There is not only the opposition from Labour, the SNP and the Lib Dems to contend with in ensuring a form of customs union remains in place, but also the dilemma of keeping the Brexit faction of the Conservative party at bay, along with the DUP who have threatened to vote down the deal due to May’s backstop to the backstop arrangement.
As a result of the resignation, albeit Johnson being a junior minister, May will have to come to the realisation that this may be the start of further resignations as the deadline for finalising a deal with the EU draws ever closer. It certainly doesn’t help her case that her former transport minister made public that the deal which is currently being finalised is radically different to what was propelled by the leave campaign during the referendum. Ultimately, a consequence of this is that it causes further revolt amongst those that knew what they were voting for back in 2016 with additional indirect implications of there being a revival of UKIP. They were cast aside at the 2015 general election, with many concluding that their job was done, although recent events may suggest otherwise. Therefore, if current trends continue to persist, May could find herself writing letters of condolences in a frequent manner with the possibility of more resignations to ensue; in addition, she could also find herself having to fend off attacks from populist surges across the country if the democratic will isn’t guaranteed.
Sources and Further Reading
Heather Stewart, ‘Jo Johnson quits as minister over Theresa May’s Brexit plan’, The Guardian (9 November 2018)
Tom Powell, ‘Brexit: What the Nation Really Thinks’, EveningStandard (7 November 2018)
Heather Stewart and Ben Quinn, ‘Brexit deal not dead despite DUP warning, says Lidington’, The Guardian (9 November 2018)
Heather Stewart and Daniel Boffey, ‘Tory Brexiters planning to reject deal even with backstop exit clause’, The Guardian (8 November 2018)
Aubrey Allegretti, ‘Jo Johnson resigns as transport minister and calls for new Brexit referendum’, Sky News (9 November 2018)
Image: EU2017EE Estonian Presidency @flickr