Boris Johnson has been pledging that October 31 would be the date of Brexit. The event, duly voted on by the people of the United Kingdom, had faced repeated delays under the leadership of Theresa May, and those delays were unacceptable.
Also unacceptable were the deals May had negotiated with the EU for a “soft” Brexit. They conceded too much to the EU in his view, and his view matched that of millions of others in Great Britain.
At the heart of the conflict were the revelations that the Russians had intervened to sway public opinion for Brexit, which triggered calls for a new Brexit election; and free trade with the United States, which was hoped by pro-Brexit citizens to grant enough preferential trade deals to allow the United Kingdom to cover the trade losses which would be seen due to an EU pullout.
After many failed attempts to push through variants of her Brexit plan, May was forced from office. Johnson took over, waving his pledge of a do-or-die Halloween Brexit before him like a battle standard. As one of the factors which had doomed May was an internal party faction which opposed her views (that faction led, in part, by Johnson) Boris took the unusual step of barring all MPs who disagreed with him from being able to run for re-election under the Conservative (Tory) Party banner.
This had an expected result which demonstrated one reason why May had not seriously considered the action… Tory MPs simply left the party, resulting in Johnson losing the majority in Parliament and having greatly diminished power in nearly all legislative tasks.
What it did, however, was streamline his attack on the date of October 31. It seemed as if Johnson might be able to deliver on his pledge.
Johnson attempted to block Parliament from requiring him to seek an extension if he couldn’t negotiate a deal with the EU. That attempt was deemed improper, and the restrictions on Parliamentary gatherings was voided. The attempt, however, spurred the legislative body into action and caused them to focus on passing exactly the type of restrictions Johnson had feared.
Johnson surprised critics and supporters alike by hammering out a deal with the EU prior to the deadline. Critics were surprised because they hadn’t believed Johnson could negotiate a better deal than May, particularly under a compressed time span. Supporters were surprised because the critics had been proven correct. The deal Johnson negotiated was, in fact, far worse than the one May had produced… it was, in large part, the initial offer the EU had made to the UK after the vote, a deal which had been summarily rejected by May as far too preferential to EU interests.
Johnson is now facing pressure from within his own party – the party whose influence in Parliament Johnson worked to diminish – because of his EU deal. It has little support in Parliament, and without even the chance for Johnson to push it through by aligning his minority-status supporters behind him the chance for it to pass is very slim.
Johnson had another trick up his sleeve.
Johnson’s “cunning plan” consisted of sending a request for a Brexit extension to the EU, as Parliament had legally mandated in response to Boris’ attempt to block them from gathering… but simultaneously making clear in a second letter, this one signed by him, that he wanted the EU to deny that request.
Johnson has learned that he has little support within the European Union. As of today, the EU has agreed to another extension of the Brexit date, this time to January 31. It is a flexible extension; in the very unlikely event the MPs agree to the Johnson deal, Brexit would be accepted under that timeline and those circumstances. For any other option, the can has been kicked down the road again, in direct opposition to the repeated, certain assurances of Johnson.
New Parliamentary elections are expected to be called for December, the results of which will be crucial. If Johnson’s restructured Conservative Party, having flushed their moderate wing, can gain a majority in the Parliament it will clear the way for the hard Brexit Johnson had promised would be delivered by the end of October. If, on the other hand, the coalition of parties against him remains in the majority the stage will be set for Johnson’s ouster and the likelihood of a new Brexit referendum.