Johannes de Jong

Theresa May’s departure won’t help the Brexiteers’ cause

Faced with the prospect of a softer Brexit, or no Brexit at all, Jacob Rees-Mogg is considering holding his nose and voting for Theresa May’s deal. Boris Johnson also appears to be considering doing the same. This shift among Tory backbenchers towards signing up to the deal seems to be contingent on May setting a date for her departure. The idea here is that with May gone, a new Prime Minister will make a big difference once the Withdrawal Agreement has passed the House of Commons. May’s successor, the thinking goes, will take a much tougher stance in the next round of negotiations with the EU. In doing so, they will be able to steer Britain on course towards a ‘real Brexit’. But take it from me: this idea is an illusion.

After all, once you are in a set EU regulatory framework it does not matter who is in charge. The framework and rules are simply applied to the point of insanity. Where there is contradiction, the rules will be interpreted against you, no matter what. All you can do is simply work within that framework and try to move forward. I know this all to well from bitter experience.

What’s more, a stronger posture by a future PM might even backfire badly. At that stage, it will be easy for the EU to mirror this hardline approach as they will hold many of the cards. This could also lead to a situation where the UK ends up stuck in the backstop even longer than the EU itself might have even hoped for. With the big eurofederalist power blocks about to take over in the European parliament, such a scenario looks all too possible.

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