Unlike his predecessor who voted to remain in the European Union, new UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been adamant that if no new agreement between Brussels and Westminster can be reached by the 31st of October he is willing, ready and able to pursue a withdrawal from the European Union on World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms. Johnson has gone a step further and talked about the possibility of invoking article 24 of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) which allows parties seeking a free trade agreement (FTA) to conduct tariff free trade for a decade or until negotiations result in an FTA.
The only problem is that a majority of the British parliament are opposed to any sort of WTO Breixt whilst there remains numerically relevant hostility in parliament directed at any form of Brexit. As such, Johnson could prorogue parliament in mid-October so that a WTO Brexit becomes the law by default. However, there was a recent parliamentary vote in which MPs decided to make such a prorogation difficult, thus effectively tying Johnson’s hands unless he can come up with some legally acceptable mechanism to achieve early prorogation.
It therefore is looking as though an early general election (some are whispering that it could happen as early as September) is the only way for Boris Johnson to build a new parliamentary majority around his pro-Brexit promises. Yet in order to do this, it will be imperative that Johnson reaches some kind of understanding with Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party.
Yesterday, shortly after a private meeting with Nigel Farage in Washington D.C., Donald Trump stated that it is his view that cooperation between Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage is the surefire way to get Brexit over the line. Although Boris Johnson has stated that he opposes cooperation with the Brexit Party and whilst Farage has at times indicated his scepticism about such a cooperative agreement, it is difficult to envisage Brexit happening through any other means.
Johnson could potentially reach a new deal with the EU that would be acceptable to the current parliament but given the fact that the EU has been horribly stubborn on the matter, this is looking not impossible but certainly unlikely. Likewise, an early prorogation whilst not impossible is also beginning to look unlikely.
This leaves Johnson with the reality of facing an early election. In such a circumstance, it cannot be denied that the pro-Brexit vote is split between the Brexit Party and a Johnson led Conservative Party. Although the rise of the Brexit Party owes a great deal to the folly of Theresa May on the Brexit front, even Johnson’s pro-Brexit credentials have not done a great deal of damage to the surging party’s poll numbers.
Latest from Ladbrokes:
11/10 2019 General Election
6/4 UK leaves EU with No Deal on 31st Oct
3/1 Boris Johnson replaced as PM before year end
3/1 Tory majority at next election
— Ladbrokes Politics (@LadPolitics) July 24, 2019
This means that waiting until after an election to form a Conservative-Brexit coalition carries with it an inherent risk as a split in the pro-Brexit vote could see the pro-EU Labour party or the even more pro-EU Liberal Democratic party win in otherwise pro-Brexit constituencies.
This leaves the final option of a pre-election pact between the Conservatives and Brexit Party. A previous piece outlining just how such an arrangement could be conducted can be read here.