Boris Johnson’s big blunder

Jon Danzig |

London Mayor Boris Johnson's big blunder

The mayor of one of the world’s most pro EU capital cities has announced that he wants Britain to leave the European Union.

Boris Johnson, MP and London’s Mayor, made his announcement after apparently agonising over the decision for hours and following the pleas of Prime Minister, David Cameron, for him not to abandon the government’s position for Britain to remain in the EU.

Boris’s view is apparently clear: in the event of Britain leaving the EU, he will be in ‘pole position’ to see-off David Cameron and rival, Chancellor George Osborne, and grab his long coveted job of Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

From his comments today, it seems that his strategy on a ‘Leave’ victory in the referendum would then be to negotiate a new and ‘better’ deal with the European Union.

My view? It’s an enormous gamble by Mr Johnson and one he may live to regret for the rest of his life.

Over the next four months, Britain and Britons are going to be exposed for the first time to fuller facts about the European Union, and all the hype and misinformation that we’ve been fed for years will be robustly challenged and corrected.

The country will go from blissful ignorance about the functioning and benefits of the European Union, to becoming global experts.

We’ve seen from past referenda campaigns in other European countries that such increased knowledge usually results in the populace becoming much more in favour of EU membership.

The bookies currently foresee a referendum victory for Britain to ‘remain’ in the EU – and unlike pollsters, bookmakers are more usually accurate at predictions.

It seems Boris has backed the wrong side. No doubt he’ll be able to brush that off with his usual bluster and buffoonery when the referendum results are announced on 24 June that Britain has voted to ‘Remain’ in the EU.

But just say Britain votes to ‘Leave’ the EU, and Boris cycles over to 10 Downing Street to take up his new position as Prime Minister. If he then tries to negotiate a ‘new deal’ with the EU, he will almost certainly be sent back home with a severe haircut.

Contrary to the view of Brexiters, EU leaders are not so desperate to keep Britain in the European club, otherwise they would have given Mr Cameron everything he demanded. They didn’t.

The foundational principles of the EU are much more important than the vexatious demands of one recalcitrant EU member, let alone an ex-member.

And if Britain leaves the European Union, what will happen to our Union of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?

Almost certainly, Scotland would immediately demand a referendum to leave the United Kingdom and apply to join the European Union as an independent state. It’s quite possible that Wales and Northern Ireland, which are both much more pro-EU than England, could follow.

Then Boris would be Prime Minister only of Little England. Yes, he might ‘get his country back’, but it could be only one country out of four. He’d be ‘king’ of a much smaller castle; no longer an island state and leading EU member, but surrounded and sandwiched by EU member-states over which he’d have no say or influence.

So the referendum exercise – if ‘Leave’ wins as Boris Johnson hopes – could result in not ‘getting our country back’ but instead losing our United Kingdom of countries.

The European Union would still exist, without England, but possibly with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as EU members.

Such a scenario is not beyond the realms of possibility. Boris could become leader of a country – and a Tory party – literally cut in half.

Boris has blundered. He should have shown loyalty to his Prime Minister and backed the ‘Remain’ campaign, in the unselfish interests of his party, the countries of the United Kingdom, and the capital city which he represents as Mayor.

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