Britain need a Churchill.
Trade deals take a long time to work out. We are experiencing that here in the US as we struggle to play with just one opponent – China. So consider a moment the challenge of negotiating with 27 different nations all at once – a sort of high level synchronised chess. And each opponent is taking it seriously. Don’t think for a moment that Fishing does not matter to Denmark and the Netherlands. Don’t think that France is not interested in Agriculture, the Germans in the terms of R&D, don’t get me started on Eggs and all 27 are profoundly concerned in the future funding of NATO – the list is a long one – and this chess game will take place against a virulent backcloth of nationalism, polarised opinion and Russian meddling.
Most commentators now agree with this column (see archive October 19 2019) that Boris Johnson will win the December election going away from the field. But if that has been a won skirmish, the real war has yet to start – this is Boris real challenge. The Singapore-EU deal which came into force this month is the result of negotiations begun nearly a decade ago in 2010. Yet Boris is promising to “get it done” inside 2020, just one year. This is undeliverable without taking a hard line which will provoke already complex tensions within the UK – Scotland and Ireland want independence. – and exacerbate the already hostile relations with the EU members. The UK will become the unifying common enemy and everyone will have both an “Ask” – Spain is already talking about Gibraltar – and never forget everyone will have a veto vote.
So here’s the thing. By December 12 Boris will have his mandate and the Labour Party will have collapsed*. But unlike most newly minted Prime Ministers for Boris the war is just starting.
The last time anyhing this momentous happened Churchill gave his great rallying speech to Britain and the House promising “Blood, toil and sweat”. He ended ” I feel entitled to claim the aid of all and I say “Come with me, let us go forward with our united strength.”
Boris is no Churchill. His challenge is to become one.
Have a great Thanksgiving