The foreign secretary famously claimed that Britain could ‘have its cake and eat it‘ in negotiations to leave the EU, but now finds that his Brexit cake is rotten to the core and filled with maggots. Nobody wants a slice.
After a series of setbacks where the government’s own analysis has shown that Brexit Britain really will be poorer, by up to 8% in terms of GDP growth after 15 years for the no-deal scenario, and the current trade deals the UK enjoys with dozens of countries around the world would be under threat with no new deals to replace them, Johnson is floundering. The Brexiteers won the referendum on the basis of half-truths, nostalgia and vague ideas about sovereignty, but now they need to plan a real strategy with binding agreements and promises, they have nothing to offer and nobody’s trust.
The foreign secretary continues to argue that leaving the EU should offer Britons hope, but his actions tell otherwise. He says that a referendum on the Brexit deal would be a “betrayal”, but fails to appreciate that a plurality of the public have consistently told pollsters leaving the EU is a bad idea and only 16% think the government, for which he is a leading figure, is handling negotiations well.
After 18 months of pushing for no compromises over Brexit, Johnson has now changed tack and decided that alienating 48% of the country was a poor decision. However, a Brexit campaign based on lies and half-truths on everything from economic forecasts to investment in the NHS, has left few with the patience to hear more bluster from the divisive figure. The name-calling and abuse by Johnson, Farage, Rees-Mogg, and their partners at the Daily Mail and the Express, where half the country have been called everything from “traitors”, to “saboteurs”, to “citizens of nowhere”, has left few with any doubt that Johnson has nothing they want.
The time for bridge building was a year ago, before triggering Article 50 so the country could come together and form a cohesive and inclusive plan for Brexit. Now, with time rapidly running out before the UK collapses out of the EU, and reports coming out weekly that show the government unequipped for the difficulties of Brexit and ill-prepared for the economic hardship it will bring, his speech is too little too late.