04 July 2019, The Tablet

Fantasy politics of Brexit or bust

Conservative leadership


Brexit or bust: this seems to be the risky prospect being offered by both contenders for the Tory party leadership. Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt have overlapping positions. “Brexit” means leaving the European Union on, or shortly after, 31 October. “Bust” means what both candidates say the electorate will do to the Conservative Party if this fails to happen, as the pro-Brexit public’s patience finally runs out.

Significantly, the 48 per cent who did not vote to leave the EU in the 2016 referendum have now all but disappeared from the Tory party’s calculations. With increasing ardour, the winning side strives toward the Brexit Promised Land, unaware of the shortages of milk and honey that may await them. It seems inevitable that the EU will refuse to offer any meaningful concessions, so the form of Brexit that the country is now staring at is the worst of all possible outcomes: leaving without a deal.

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