Wednesday, 6 July 2022 – 12:07

What Boris Johnson’s speech means for the PM

Boris Johnson has delivered his resignation statement this afternoon in a packed House of Commons this afternoon. However, his reluctancy to attack Mrs May may come as a welcome relief for the beleaguered Prime Minister. 

The former Foreign Secretary, who resigned in protest over the Government’s Brexit White Paper, set out his critique of the Government in a way familiar to those who have read his resignation letter. Britain needs a clean break from the EU, he argued, not an approach that would seek to maintain a common rulebook. Any concerns regarding the future prosperity of the UK economy outside the EU and Single Market were brushed aside by his characteristic optimism. Though, it is questionable how far this optimism will go to erasure businesses reliant on free and frictionless trade with the EU. This serves once again to highlight the distance between Remainers and Brexiters in the Conservative Party, with the former concerned only with evidence, and the latter mainly rhetoric. 

His closing message was that it is not too late to save Brexit. However, the question on most people’s lips is who will save it?

At this point, Johnson’s speech floundered. He did not address the ‘how’ it could be saved. Clearly, aside from accepting a few amendments, the plan laid out at Chequers has scrapped through Parliament, just.

Mrs May is therefore beginning to show a quiet, if not silent, confidence in her strategy despite multiple resignations. Mr Johnson too did not challenge Mrs May’s leadership, and there was nothing major in the speech that suggested any other true-blue Brexiter would either. 

Therefore, what could have been a Geoffrey Howe or a Robin Cook type speech, turned out to be quite less. Minority governments, as is clear from this week alone shows, are easy enough to damage, and Mrs May has had her fair share of disasters. However, they are a lot harder to fatally wound. 

Therefore, whilst the Brexiters may have the numbers ready to mount a vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister (48), reports of her standing down, or being pushed, still remain an exaggeration.

For tonight, at least, the Prime Minister can sleep a little more easy.  

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