Boris, Brexit & Britain June 2022 – 6 September 2022

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Truss appointed as Britain’s PM, Johnson bows out

Booster rocket or Roman dictator? Boris Johnson says farewell, for now
By Elizabeth Piper and Michael Holden
Roman reference makes some believe in Johnson return
Says he wants a quieter life
Those closest to him say he will want to make money

(Reuters) – Comparing himself to a booster rocket that had fulfilled its mission, Boris Johnson said farewell to his Downing Street residence and office on Tuesday and described his future plans as a return to a quieter life.
In what was a typically bombastic speech, Britain’s outgoing prime minister pointedly took aim at those lawmakers in his Conservative Party he blames for forcing his resignation and, almost to prove them wrong, went on to list what he sees as his successes during his time as premier.
He also offered a tantalising reference for classics scholars, when he compared himself to Cincinnatus, a Roman dictator who, despite his old age, left his small farm to take control of the Roman state to fight an invasion in 16 days.
Cincinnatus returned to his farm, but legend has it he was recalled a second time to fend off another crisis, prompting some to wonder whether Johnson, 58, would try to stage a comeback.
‘This is it, folks’: Boris Johnson bids an ambiguous goodbye
(AP) — Boris Johnson’s term as British leader was a mix of high drama and low disgrace. But he left office Tuesday with a casual shrug of a farewell: “Well, this is it, folks.”
The prime minister’s final speech outside 10 Downing Street, delivered before he offered his resignation to Queen Elizabeth II, was vintage Johnson — a quixotic blend of humor, classical erudition, ego and an elastic relationship with the truth. And it left many observers wondering whether this really is the end for a leader who has long defied political gravity.

1 September

Britain After Ukraine
A New Foreign Policy for an Age of Great-Power Competition
By Tom Tugendhat, Conservative Member of the British Parliament and the Chair of its Foreign Affairs Committee.
(Foreign Affairs) For the United Kingdom, partnerships are power. It can address the economic dependence and lack of resilience that have become its key weaknesses by building networks, not just missiles.
Building alliances to confront the most pressing issues of our time was how the country fought and won the Cold War. It must also be how it fights and wins the wars of the future.
At the center of the new British strategy must be a simple idea: although it may benefit the country to build trade relations with many different countries across the world, these ties should not come at the expense of deeper partnerships among close allies that emphasize security and a set of shared values. Instead of reopening trade and economic dialogues with China, it should focus efforts on partnerships with countries in the Commonwealth, Europe, and others, such as Indonesia, that are on a path closer to the West’s. Building trade with trust strengthens resilience rather than weakening it.
In the new era of great-power rivalry, multilateral cooperation still has a role to play. But the United Kingdom should prioritize reform in areas that truly require global consensus, such as climate change. The country can deepen its reach by leveraging its legal expertise to draft agreements that build on access to British courts and shape global norms around democracy and the rule of law. The British government will have to look at the obstacles it has built—from visas and professional qualifications to tariffs and quotas—for others who seek to use its capital and markets. Drawing on its expertise in trade, foreign aid, diplomacy, and defense, the United Kingdom can enable a more flexible and responsive strategy that combines smaller partnerships with more global action where needed.

Liz Truss’ unenviable new gig
“Truss is constrained by the fact that she made a deal with the right to gain the keys to No. 10, and the cabinet she’s putting together is going to be made up of many right-wing eurosceptics. The space she has to make a political deal [with the EU] is very constrained.”
(gzeromedia) The UK will have a new prime minister on Sept. 6. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, who is all but assured to move into Downing Street next week, beat a crowded Tory field vying to replace outgoing party boy Boris Johnson.
Truss takes over at one of the most perilous times in recent British history. What will be the major challenges at home and abroad — and which of these problems are of Truss’ own making?
Challenges at home. The UK is currently mired in its worst cost-of-living crisis in decades, in large part because of soaring energy and rent prices. The Bank of England recently warned that the UK will likely face its longest recession since the global financial crisis in 2007, and inflation is slated to hit a staggering 18.6% early next year. Indeed, sky-high energy costs and post-Brexit shortages have fueled inflation rates that top the EU and the US.
Truss, for her part, fashions herself as unabashedly pro-business and has rejected any new taxes to raise government revenue, including a windfall tax on oil and gas companies that have made a mint in recent months.
Indeed, as Europe braces for an energy crunch this winter due to Russian gas cuts – with EU member states agreeing to slash gas use by 15% until at least April 2023 – the UK is emerging as one of the biggest crisis hotspots. Why?
While the UK is less reliant on Russian gas than many countries – importing more than 75% of its natural supply from Norway – it is facing an even more brutal winter than many of its European counterparts.
Challenges abroad. The UK and EU are on a collision course. Two and half years since Brexit, relations between the UK and the EU are still extremely strained. In her bid to win the Conservative Party’s top job, Truss sought to appeal to the populist-right flank of the Conservative Party, rallying hard against the post-Brexit deal negotiated – and agreed to – with Brussels.
The largest remaining sticking point is the Northern Ireland Protocol, which sought to avoid creating a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The Tories have since reversed course and seek to change some terms, a move that some observers say breaches international law.

31 August
Brexit is the monster under the bed Liz Truss is desperately trying to ignore
Rafael Behr
The likely winner of the leadership contest insists Brexit was the right path to take with the vehemence of a zealous convert
There is a book that foresaw with precision this summer’s Conservative leadership contest, although it was first published in 1980. It is a thin volume about denial and negligence, making its point with few words and colourful illustrations. It is called Not now, Bernard by David McKee….
The next resident of 10 Downing Street will find the garden crawling with monstrous economic and political menaces. A chorus of Bernards is raising the alarm. Economists, MPs, former Tory ministers, charities, trade unions, businesses, local councils – all can hear rustling in the bushes where a beastly crisis lurks, ready to savage the new prime minister.
Anyone who pays an energy bill and does a weekly shop can feel the claws of a budget squeeze closing around the nation’s windpipe. There’s an ogre in the health service. “Not now, Bernard,” says Rishi Sunak. There’s a fiend in the financial outlook. “Not now, Bernard,” says Liz Truss. There are devils in your policy details. “Not now, Bernard!”

26 August
Tories in disarray over energy crisis as Truss urged to spell out plans to help
Some MPs backing leadership frontrunner showing signs of jitters over lack of response to soaring bills
The frontrunner to be prime minister in just over a week’s time said she would “ensure people get the support needed to get through these tough times” but had no new suggestions about how much or who would get assistance, with the average energy bill set to hit £3,549 from October.
Energy cap leap looks to be moment when UK recession fears turn into reality
Rocketing gas and electricity prices may usher in some benefits – but none will have much impact this winter

Over the past week the Guardian has put much of its own energy (pun intended) into the enormous hike in UK energy prices: the impact on those struggling; the likely economic upshot; the supernormal profits of energy companies that underlie a broken market. A power vacuum caused by the never-ending Tory leadership contest has not helped.

17 August
The Guardian view on Liz Truss and British workers: the mask slips
Editorial
A leaked recording reveals that the favourite to be the next prime minister has little grasp of the nation’s economic reality
The only thing that Ms Truss gets right in her diatribe against working people is the assertion that Britain’s productivity crisis goes back decades. But the cause is not a lack of appetite for hard work. British employees work longer hours than their German counterparts, for example. But as a result of a perennial lack of proper investment in skills and technology, their labour is less productive. It is true that London is, to an unhealthy degree, more productive than the rest of the country. But that is due to governments since the 1980s placing all bets on a financialised, service-based economy, with the City of London at its heart. The rest of Britain, outside major cities, has become a disproportionately low-wage, low-skill environment.
Britain launches dispute resolution with EU over post-Brexit research
(Reuters) – Britain has launched dispute resolution proceedings with the European Union to try to gain access to the bloc’s scientific research programmes, including Horizon Europe, the government said on Tuesday, in the latest post-Brexit row.
Under a trade agreement signed at the end of 2020, Britain negotiated access to a range of science and innovation programmes, including Horizon, a 95.5 billion euro ($97 billion) programme that offers grants and projects to researchers.
But 18 months on, Britain says the EU has yet to finalise access to Horizon, Copernicus, the earth observation programme on climate change, Euratom, the nuclear research programme, and to services such as Space Surveillance and Tracking

7 August
Truss-Sunak contest leaves Brussels pessimistic about relations with UK
EU officials see little hope of escape from post-Brexit low under either Tory candidate
Whether it is Liz Truss or Rishi Sunak who is handed the keys to Downing Street on 5 September, officials in Brussels have little hope of a rapprochement with the new government.
More than six years after Britain voted to leave the European Union, relations have hit a post-Brexit low, as the UK government pushes ahead with plans for a unilateral rewriting of the Northern Ireland protocol, a linchpin of the post-Brexit agreement. The EU has said the plans – led by Truss, the foreign secretary – would breach international law and has threatened to tear up the post-Brexit trade deal.
One EU diplomat said there was nothing to suggest that Truss, the frontrunner, would abandon the approach she has pursued as foreign secretary. “If the UK government follows through with the plan already set out, I think it’s fair to say relations will get worse,” they said.

20 July
Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss to face off in final round of Tory leadership race
(The Guardian) The final vote by MPs saw Sunak, a former chancellor, top the poll easily on 137 votes. Truss, the foreign secretary, who had trailed Mordaunt throughout the previous rounds, took 113 votes, ahead of Mordaunt’s 105.
Sunak and Truss will now go to the next stage of the contest, a vote by Tory party members, with the winner succeeding Boris Johnson as prime minister in early September.
Truss vs Sunak – and the choice of two very different futures for Britain
(Independent UK) On the surface, the decision is between the fiscal responsibility offered by Sunak and the immediate tax cuts promised by Truss. But this debate masks a more fundamental question: should Brexit Britain adopt the Truss vision to exploit its new freedoms by becoming a low-tax, low-regulation country which diverges from EU rules, with a “smaller state” – dubbed “Singapore-on-Thames” by Brexiteers? Or should it take the Sunak road: living within its means, balancing its books and recognising the growing demands on public services, not least from an ageing population?
A bitter, unrepentant Boris Johnson will be a curse on the next prime minister
Rafael Behr
The next Tory leader will have no mandate – and a predecessor who, deep down, wants them to fail
Most of the past six years has been an experiment in how absurd politics can get before some unwritten rule imposes sobriety. That limit has yet to be found.
The prime minister is whoever the Queen appoints on the basis that they can command a majority in the Commons. An incumbent party can switch leaders between elections, but the fee for novelty is paid in legitimacy.
The role of former prime minister will suit his taste for elevated status without any burden of responsibility. He can rely on Fleet Street sycophants to amplify his meddlesome pronouncements and to reinforce the myth of his tragic and premature defenestration

Kemi Badenoch knocked out of Tory leadership race
(The Guardian) Penny Mordaunt and Liz Truss are locked in a tight race for a chance to become prime minister, alongside Rishi Sunak, as polling seen by the Guardian suggests Labour could beat any of the three at a general election.
The former levelling up minister Kemi Badenoch was eliminated in Tuesday’s ballot of Conservative MPs, coming fourth among the remaining contenders with 59 votes.
Sunak remained in the lead with 118 votes, just short of the 120 needed to secure a spot in the last two. Mordaunt, the international trade minister, kept her second spot with 92 votes, up from 82, but Truss, the foreign secretary, closed the gap by picking up 15 extra votes to reach 86.
The three contenders will be whittled down to two on Wednesday afternoon, and Tory party members’ final decision on who will become prime minister will be announced on 5 September

Rishi Sunak woos Brexit supporters with vow to fast-track ripping up of EU rules
New polling finds former chancellor is the overwhelming choice of voters in seats Conservatives must retain to keep a grip on power

16 July
British prime minister contenders set to clash in second TV debate
Five challenging to succeed Boris Johnson as British PM
Second of three TV debates on Sunday
Tax plans at heart of heated contest
Polls show conflicting picture of who is winning
(Reuters) – The five Conservative contenders still vying to be Britain’s next prime minister will clash in a second televised debate on Sunday when they are set to renew hostilities over tax policy and issues such as transgender rights.
Ex-finance minister Rishi Sunak has emerged as the favourite among the 358 Conservative lawmakers, who will hold further votes this week to whittle down the field of contenders to a final two.
A JL Partners poll for the Sunday Telegraph suggested almost half of Conservative voters thought he would make a good prime minister ahead of his main rivals foreign minister Liz Truss and junior minister Penny Mordaunt.
Whoever gets the job will take on rocketing inflation and low economic growth, as well as the public’s lack of confidence in politics after Johnson’s scandal-ridden time in power. Opinion polls also suggest the Conservatives are falling significantly behind the opposition Labour Party.

12 July
Eight candidates to fight first round of Tory leadership campaign
Rishi Sunak followed by Kemi Badenoch, Suella Braverman, Jeremy Hunt, Penny Mordaunt, Tom Tugendhat, Liz Truss and Nadhim Zahawi
(The Guardian) All the candidates must gain votes from at least 30 MPs in order to pass the first ballot on Wednesday evening. All 358 Tory MPs will vote in the first ballot on Wednesday, with a second ballot to be held on Thursday. Further ballots will be held next week until the list of contenders is down to two finalists.

7 July
Gone but not gone: Boris Johnson quits but clings on to power
Prime minister dramatically announces his intention to step down, but signals he hopes to stay in post for months to come
(The Guardian) Boris Johnson dramatically quit as prime minister after a mass walkout of MPs finally sealed his fate, signalling an end to one of the most divisive and turbulent periods in British politics.
In a speech outside Downing Street on Thursday that was tinged with bitterness, he blamed ministers for turning on him but expressed neither regret nor contrition for his mistakes.
John Major urges 1922 Committee to remove Boris Johnson quickly
Former PM says it is ‘unwise, and may be unsustainable’ for Johnson to stay in office for up to three months
(Atlantic Council) Boris Johnson announced on Thursday that he would leave his post as prime minister of the United Kingdom as soon as a replacement from within the Conservative Party is selected, after a series of scandals resulted in a revolt from within his administration. So what happens now to the “Global Britain” that Johnson was trying to build? We reached out to our experts to gauge the reaction in foreign capitals to the drama in Westminster, and what the future might hold for the United Kingdom.
Boris Johnson finally, and reluctantly, bowed to the inevitable. In refusing to go on Wednesday night, when dozens of his ministers had resigned and members of his cabinet were urging him to go, he argued—wrongly, since the United Kingdom has a parliamentary democracy—that he had a personal mandate from the British people to stay on as a result of the Conservative Party’s electoral victory at the end of 2019. His colleagues persuaded him that this was not the case.
In his resignation speech outside 10 Downing Street, Johnson nevertheless said that he would remain in office until the party had chosen his successor. That could take months, since there are many candidates for his job and processes to be completed. Bizarrely, in the hours before he said he was resigning, Johnson appointed a number of ministers to fill the vacancies left by those who had resigned. The implication is that he intends to continue governing for as long as he can, rather than serve as caretaker.
Experts react: Boris Johnson is resigning. What’s next for the United Kingdom on the world stage?
Ben Judah: A monument to failure
Peter Westmacott: What will (and won’t) change about UK foreign policy
Frances Burwell: “Sighs of relief” in Brussels, but could relations get worse?
Peter Dickinson: What Johnson’s departure means for Ukraine
The Shameless Boris Johnson The prime minister couldn’t even resign with grace.
Boris Johnson, like so many other populist charlatans, is a symbol of how much has changed in modern politics—for the worse.
Tom Nichols
(The Atlantic Daily news letter) Johnson and his clownish reign are a symbol of the rise of populist chicanery around the world. Johnson, along with Trump, Narendra Modi, Jair Bolsonaro, and many others, is one of the many wealthy populists who gained power by supercharging a sense of resentment among ordinary people. This is the great danger to democracy in the 21st century, and it is the work of men and women who have no sense of decency or duty.
Good riddance to Boris Johnson—but he is only one of many of his kind.

6 July
Boris Johnson’s downfall
(Politico) British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is fighting for his political life today, again. He faces a grilling by chairs of the British Parliament’s committees (from all parties) at 10 a.m. ET, and his own MPs will meet at noon ET to elect a new executive leadership team. The likely next step: a rule change to enable another vote of confidence in Johnson’s leadership.
Finance Minister Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid quit within minutes Tuesday evening, citing Johnson’s lack of integrity. Another eight officials followed them out the door, forcing a late night Cabinet reshuffle.
More ultra loyalists jumped ship this morning, and a further five ministers resigned together Wednesday afternoon local time: for a total of 15 ministerial resignations.
Sunak and Javid: Big hitters who quit UK government
The resignations — after a succession of crises that led to a vote of confidence in Johnson’s leadership — did nothing to dampen speculation that both men still have an eye on the top job.

25 June
‘What have we done?’: six years on, UK counts the cost of Brexit
Sectors from fishing to aviation, farming to science report being bogged down in red tape, struggling to recruit staff and racking up losses for the first time
(The Guardian) Six years after the referendum which took the UK out of the EU, the economic case for Brexit is proving increasingly difficult for its supporters – including inside the Conservative party – to make.
Most of the trade deals with non-EU countries that the UK has signed have been small in their economic effect, and have merely been “rolled over” from identical ones when we were an EU member. Even Jacob Rees-Mogg, the minister for Brexit opportunities, has stopped talking about Brexit and the UK economy, and instead focuses on what he says is the democratic dividend, the winning back of control, and the return of sovereignty. That is not surprising because day by day the economic data is piling up showing the harm that leaving the EU is doing to the nation’s finances.
Johnson and the Vote Leave campaign promised in 2016 that £350m a month would flow back from Brussels because we would stop contributing to EU coffers.
The impression was that there would be no downside. We would thrive outside Europe’s bureaucracy which was strangling our companies with red tape. The huge benefits of the single market – trading freely across borders, with common standards – were never highlighted by Vote Leave, and rarely by the crudely alarmist Remain camp, either.
Next year the OECD calculates that the UK will record the lowest growth in the G20 with the exception of Russia whose economy is being drained by its war on Ukraine.
The Office for Budget Responsibility says Brexit will have a long-term effect of cutting UK GDP by a hefty 4%, an estimate unchanged since early 2020.

25 June
Boris Johnson seeks to stay in power in U.K. until the mid-2030s
(Reuters) British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Saturday he aims to remain in power until the middle of the next decade, despite calls for him to quit, which would make him the country’s longest continuously serving leader in 200 years.
Earlier this month, Johnson survived a vote of confidence by Conservative lawmakers in which 41% of his parliamentary colleagues voted to oust him, and he is under investigation for intentionally misleading parliament.
On Friday Conservative candidates lost two parliamentary by-elections held to replace former Conservative incumbents who had to step down, one after being convicted of sexual assault and the other for watching pornography in the House of Commons.
Johnson said he wanted to serve a third term in office and remain as prime minister until the mid-2030s to give him time to reduce regional economic disparities and make changes to Britain’s legal and immigration systems.
“At the moment I am thinking actively about the third term and, you know, what could happen then. But I will review it when I get to it,” Johnson told reporters in Rwanda on the final day of a visit for a Commonwealth summit.

24 June
Charles tells Commonwealth leaders dropping Queen is ‘for each to decide’
Prince of Wales says at summit any move by members to become a republic can be ‘without rancour’
Prince Charles nods at republican sentiment in Commonwealth speech
KIGALI, June 24 (Reuters) – Britain’s Prince Charles on Friday acknowledged growing republican sentiment in some Commonwealth nations that currently have his mother Queen Elizabeth as head of state, saying it was for them to decide their constitutional arrangements.
Addressing the opening ceremony of a summit of Commonwealth leaders in Rwanda, Charles said “we meet and talk as equals” and that while some member states had constitutional relationships with his family, a growing number did not.
“I want to say clearly, as I have said before, that each member’s constitutional arrangement, as republic or monarchy, is purely a matter for each member country to decide,” he said
Boris Beleaguered
(WaPo) British Prime Minister Boris Johnson suffered a fresh blow Friday with the resignation of his party chairman after the Conservatives lost two symbolically important parliamentary seats.
Johnson’s Tories suffer fresh electoral defeat; party chair quits

28 April
Did Brexit help Britain help Ukraine?
Some say a more nimble UK has been quicker to act. Others criticize failures on refugees.
(Politico Eu) Where post-Brexit Britain leads, the EU follows. At least, that’s the view among some British officials who are quietly congratulating themselves on the U.K.’s quick reactions to the Ukraine war.
In the two months since Putin’s forces invaded, Britain has sought to play a leading role in the efforts to help Ukraine in its fight — sending weapons, taking a hard line on Russian fuel exports and moving to cut import tariffs for Ukrainian goods.
Skeptics argue some of the U.K. moves amount to posturing aimed at scoring Brexit points. London failed to quickly set up a system for helping desperate Ukrainian refugees and took its time to sanction Russian oligarchs.
In other areas, Britain has been quicker to make key decisions while European Union countries struggle to reach agreements among themselves. The British move to cut tariffs, for example, was a precursor to the EU proposing the same.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has even praised British Prime Minister Boris Johnson for “helping more” than other leaders — and condemned EU members who have been slower to stop buying the Russian oil and gas that continues to fund the conflict.
Johnson is set to become the first world leader to address the parliament in Kyiv via videolink today. “This is Ukraine’s finest hour, an epic chapter in your national story that will be remembered and recounted for generations to come,” he was preparing to say.

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