Boris Johnson has resigned. The Foreign Secretary becomes the second senior Cabinet Minister to quit over the deal agreed at Chequers, which he reportedly called a ‘turd’.
At the weekend, those close to Boris were clear that he wouldn’t resign. They said that the only people who would benefit from his resignation would be Michel Barnier and co and that he intended to stay and fight against further concessions to the EU. So, what has changed? Well, a cynic would say David Davis’s resignation. But I understand another factor for him has been how he would defend this plan in public. The more he thought about it, the more he felt he couldn’t do it. I understand he is now of the view that no deal is better than this deal.
Boris Johnson had also decided that he had no realistic prospect of improving the Chequers plan from inside government. He also believed that he would be outnumbered again when it came to the question of whether to make further concessions to the EU.
Downing Street’s decision to rush out Boris’s resignation shows how they know they are in an epic political fight now. They had no desire to allow Boris Johnson to announce this in his own terms. Expect to see Boris’s many critics in the parliamentary party tear into him in the coming hours.
The question now becomes, how does Mrs May pass her deal with the EU, if she can get one? It is becoming increasingly likely that even with the DUP, she won’t have the Tory votes to do it. This makes Brexit far more unpredictable than before—both no deal and no Brexit are more likely than they were. The other big question is whether we are looking at 48 letters going in at some point in the near-future. At the moment, May would almost certainly survive a Tory vote of no confidence. But it would further weaken her.
One final thought on Boris Johnson: he is, probably, the indispensable Brexiteer. I think if he had done as many around Cameron expected and backed Remain with no enthusiasm, Leave would not have won. But his support for Leave and the way in which he gave that campaign a very recognisable public face, was one of the things that led to Leave’s victory.