Just 59 percent of people in the Conservative House of Commons voted to vote in favor of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Monday evening’s vote. It is in the logic of this result that Johnson’s opponents in their own ranks will not stop putting pressure on the head of government. In this situation, the host could start a diversionary maneuver in Downing Street. To divert the focus from his domestic problems, he could use the EU as a scapegoat.
This fear, expressed by Katarina Barley as Vice President of the European Parliament, is well founded. Resentment against the EU is exactly the stuff that made Johnson great politically. His pro-Brexit campaign in 2016 paved his way to the British cabinet at the time. At the end of 2019, he was overwhelmingly confirmed as prime minister in the last general election. At the time, the British believed that he would finally complete Brexit. “Get Brexit done” was the slogan that accompanied Johnson’s further political rise.
But the story of Johnson’s rise and fall did not end with Brexit. The corona pandemic and lockdown parties followed with the well-known consequences: the British have long since lost confidence in their prime minister, as has a large part of their own parliamentary group.
When Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, survived her own Conservative no-confidence vote, she outperformed the current incumbent – and still had to resign. Anyone who now thinks that the prime minister will inevitably have to resign in view of the disastrous result has still not understood Johnson’s unscrupulous way of thinking. The dispute with the EU over customs controls between Northern Ireland and the British mainland may be just the thing for him to make up a few points.
The fact that the British went back to business as usual after Brexit and no longer want to be bothered with the EU doesn’t seem to bother him. He could soon introduce legislation that would overrule parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol. In the protocol, the EU and Great Britain – with Johnson’s approval – made a determination to prevent a “hard border” between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
Abandoning the protocol would trigger a trade war between Britain and the EU. Johnson should think carefully about whether he really wants to expect the British to do this.