Tuesday 20 August 2019

Editorial: 'Hard, soft or scrambled? Boris has Brexit on his plate'

If Mr Johnson is to succeed, he must focus on the politically attainable. Photo: Reuters
If Mr Johnson is to succeed, he must focus on the politically attainable. Photo: Reuters
Editorial

Editorial

Boris Johnson has finally managed to confound even himself. Today he will become British prime minister, a possibility he famously dismissed by saying: "My chances of being PM are about as good as the chances of finding Elvis on Mars, or my being reincarnated as an olive."

The most ebullient and bombastic No-dealer of them all now has about 100 days to put the broken Humpty Dumpty of Brexit back together again. Brexit: hard, soft or scrambled is now his on a plate.

But the "easiest deal in history", which he once touted, has proven anything but. That is why everyone in these islands and beyond will wish him well.

For no prime minister since Churchill has had to take the helm in such a turbulent time.

Yet Mr Johnson has played no small part in catapulting his country into this perfect storm.

Weathering it from the bridge will be more taxing than plotting the course from a back-room.

The hope is he can bring some of his high-octane energy to revitalise a political establishment that has exhausted itself through argument and loss of direction.

Yesterday he cast the UK as something of a Gulliver, trapped in a Lilliput of the EU's creation, saying: "Like some slumbering giant, we are going to rise and ping off the guy-ropes of self-doubt and negativity."

The truth is the Gordian knot in which the UK finds itself entangled was of its own making. Every effort may be made to facilitate its release, but a reckoning between magical thinking and reality is required.

Mr Johnson promised to "do or die" to deliver Brexit by October 31.

But a pause for breath might be prudent. The perils of Brexit are ignored only at a heavy cost.

To date, it has effectively claimed the heads of two British prime ministers.

If Mr Johnson is to succeed, he must focus on the politically attainable.

Having one's cake and eating it is not a luxury of high office; it tends to result in nothing but humble pie being left on the menu.

A Brexit without a divorce deal, which Mr Johnson has brushed off without a care, would deliver a disastrous jolt to the peace in the North. It would also undermine London's position as the pre-eminent international financial centre.

Mr Johnson's chutzpah and confidence will be valuable in the days ahead.

He will also need more than a cursory command of policy detail.

Reliant on the support of 10 DUP members, and with cabinet ministers departing daily, he faces the moment of truth he has relished.

He once said: "If the ball came loose from the back of the scrum, which it won't of course, [becoming prime minister] would be a great, great thing to have a crack at."

To borrow a quote from another sporting code: Brexit is not a game, it is a lot more serious than that.

Irish Independent

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