Davis and Johnson resign: Eurosceptics reinvent themselves for the 2020s

Joe Mitton

PLMR's Joe Mitton on Davis and Johnson's resignations and what it means for Brexit

Some feuds are just too good to end with a divorce. For a committed band of Eurosceptics, an emerging narrative is that Theresa May’s version of Brexit is just not good enough and the political fight against Brussels must go on.  

Looking back at the promises made in 2016, one would think Eurosceptic MPs (as they used to be called, before being known as Hard Brexiteers) would be much pleased with their successes.  The official Leave campaign in the 2016 referendum promised that the UK would stay in the Single Market and the European Customs Union. We would not be leaving institutions such as the European Court of Justice, we would only be leaving the European Union.

Positions that were on the fringe of mainstream politics then have now moved squarely to the centre. Cabinet Ministers David Davis and Boris Johnson have both resigned, claiming that the break with Brussels is not complete without the possibility of full regulatory divergence and a separate customs policy.

More resignations may follow and the political ramifications for Ms May’s leadership are not yet clear, at the time of writing.  But what is clear is that a narrative is emerging on the right wing of the Conservative Party that the government’s vision of Brexit is not a proper Brexit at all. It leaves the UK too tied to decision-making in Brussels.

This is a convenient narrative to have if the promised benefits of Brexit fail to materialise in the years to come. Opposition to a soft Brexit is now a rallying point for the right wing of the Party. And if the government continues with its current compromising approach to the negotiations (and that is a big if), the Eurosceptics will have a useful political axe to grind with Brussels and the soft Brexiteers for years after we have left the EU.

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