Did Boris Johnson betray David Cameron

Boris Johnson: Defeat of a consummate opportunist


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Watching Boris Johnson being outmaneuvered by Angela Merkel and Ursula von der Leyen was both painful and beautiful for me. Painful for me as a man and as a British. Nice for me as a feminist and European. The fact that in the end all the chauvinist - male and national-chauvinist - talk of absolute sovereignty was reduced to a bargaining for a few megatons of fish: That would be a shame if I weren't British myself.

And when finally the trucks jammed in front of Dover as a foretaste of the hard Brexit, while the NHS, which the British adore like a holy cow, asked Johnson at least for a Brexit postponement, if he could not negotiate a deal, was there the man long ago done.

Of course, the foundation was laid two weeks ago when a compromise was found at the last moment in the dispute with Hungary and Poland over the rule of law clause, so that the EU budget and the Corona aid package could be passed in the Council. Fundamentalists in the European Parliament and in German journalism shouted betrayal of European values. But the decisive factor was regaining the European capacity to act.

Just find something to cover up Johnson's defeat

Because thanks to the newly found unity in the council, Johnson was prevented from weakening their uniform front in individual discussions with his EU colleagues and appeals to the various interests - Portuguese sardine fishermen versus German car manufacturers versus Polish plumbers. This is where Merkel pulled the strings as President of the Council. Instead, Johnson had to go to Brussels as a supplicant for dinner with Commissioner Ursula von der Leyen. With this move to Canossa it became clear that Johnson's only concern was to find a formula that concealed his defeat in the poker game over the post-Brexit deal. EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier was entrusted with this.

This was followed by the extension of the talks beyond the deadline, the targeted indiscretions according to which there was already an agreement on fishing rights, or that Johnson had accepted the much more important principle of adapting the treaty to changing European legislation. All of these were test balloons with which the beleaguered British prime minister wanted to see what he could expect from the ideologues in his own party.

Boris Johnson is not an ideologist, but a consummate opportunist. Shortly before his decision to betray his then prime minister and party leader David Cameron and support Brexit, he had a column for the telegraph which states: "There is a market on our doorstep waiting to be further exploited by British companies. The membership fee for this access seems relatively small. Why do we want to turn our backs on it?" In the end, Johnson decided against economic reason and in favor of his career. The column was never published, Johnson became the face of Brexit. However, the argument that the price Britain has to pay to access the common market is relatively small remains as valid as the argument, which Johnson did not address at the time, that the price of non-access is exorbitantly high.

Great Britain must play by the same rules

Now Johnson has to defend his sanity from yesterday against the ghosts in his own party, which he himself called and which made him their prime minister. In an "internal" government paper that went to the press before the agreement was reached, Downing Street claims to have "won" 43 percent of the disputed cases and the EU only 17 percent. A compromise has been reached in the remaining cases. It's as ridiculous as it is transparent. Only one point is important: the integrity of the European internal market - the principle that Great Britain must play by the same rules as the other market participants. And that was never seriously up for debate, nor could it.

Great Britain is the fifth largest trading partner for the EU and the EU is the largest trading partner for Great Britain. The entire game of poker, first of the unhappy acting Theresa May, then of the even more unhappy acting Boris Johnson, was based on making this balance of power forgotten. It is interesting to see which cards were used. After the Brexit referendum in 2016, May opted for the slogan "Global Britain". Freed from annoying EU regulations, Britain would conclude beneficial trade deals with the whole world. The international situation seemed to favor such an experiment. Powerful China signaled an interest in closer relations. The rising India too. In the US, Donald Trump was ruled by a man who declared the EU an "enemy" and put the transatlantic free trade agreement TTIP on hold.