It’s very likely that everyone in the UK lost when Boris Johnson officially took the reins as the newest Prime Minister. Some people lost more than others, though. The greatest failure of all is Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour party.
Corbyn held firm on his demand for a new Brexit vote, successfully holding the Labour vote firm against Theresa May’s attempted “soft Brexit” strategy. His brinksmanship was matched by Johnson’s, whose coalition successfully kept May from pushing her deal through with Conservative votes. Johnson didn’t want a “soft Brexit”, he wanted either a beneficial deal from the EU or a full, “hard Brexit”.
Labour never had the votes to force a new vote, but they wanted one and Corbyn wasn’t about to let numbers stand in his way. He expected that May would eventually just capitulate and hand him, and Labour, a victory. He thought he would get that result because of a shift in public sentiment away from Brexit.
It was a flawed strategy from the beginning, and obviously so. Had May called for a new vote, she would have been setting terrible precedent by defying the will of the voters and simultaneously running directly counter to both her party and her main campaign planks. Politics is often the art of getting the most possible out of any bargain, and Corbyn was not willing to recognize that he was not in a position to make demands. He played political chicken, and instead of getting some of what he wants, he has nothing.
That alone makes him no more of a failure than Theresa May, however; she put all her chips on a negotiated Brexit and, after spending years arranging a deal with the EU, was unable to push it through Parliament. What makes Corbyn special are the secondary results.
May was forced from office. This looks bad for her in the present, but the reality of Brexit will likely be that it will not achieve anything akin to the rosy results predicted by the hard Brexit group nor will it have the dire consequences forecast by the Remain crowd. It will have problems, and May, having fought for a moderated solution, will get some credit for her foresight even as she retains a blemish on her record for her failure.
Corbyn, on the other hand, spent so much energy on the Brexit question that he neglected to deal with rising anti-Semitism complains within Labour. The party had already been dealing with internal issues on the subject because of their courting of Muslim immigrants to Britain; Corbyn responded by shutting down any internal inquiries and ignoring complaints, resulting in charges of widespread anti-Jewish sentiment from the top and from various Labour subdivisions.
The result is a party leader who is seen as inept and racist, and seven Parliament members who have resigned from the Labour party. With Boris Johnson, a man who is not particularly liked or respected (recent IPSOS polling put him at 55% among Conservatives on the question of “Is he a capable leader?” and under 30% among all Britons not members of his party), as his primary opposition, he would seem to be primed for future success. Instead, he’s at risk to lose his position at the head of the party.
There will be no revote; a negotiated Brexit will happen if the EU is willing to abandon most of its demands, or there will be a hard Brexit. Johnson, who is viewed by many as a mini-Trump (a man who is generally despised in the UK) faces strong headwinds toward success, and his only significant positive in the eyes of many Britons has been his embrace of Brexit as a necessity. I’m expecting the hard Brexit. Johnson will have the chance for long-term success if he manages to deliver on many of the Tory promises regarding it while avoiding any catastrophic results.
This seems particularly unlikely unless he renders himself completely subservient to Trump, and somewhat unlikely even then. Brexit success as predicted by the Tories is heavily dependent upon strongly preferential trade deals with the United States, and Trump has been disinclined to give even our firmest allies any deal which obviously favors them.
If a hard Brexit comes and is a definite failure, the UK can expect to see a push toward a Scottish vote to break from Great Britain. Scotland voted firmly against Brexit, and there have already been failed recent efforts to garner enough support for independence. A Brexit failure is a likely impetus to push them away and back into the EU.
There are many pitfalls the UK faces in recent months. Again, this is a scenario where everyone is likely to walk away with the bitter taste of significant failure. Nobody, however, is more deeply politically wounded today than Jeremy Corbyn.