Boris Johnson Is Gone, but London’s EU Delusions Remain

Boris Johnson Is Gone, but London’s EU Delusions Remain
A man holds a placard and an EU flag outside the Houses of Parliament, in London, July 6, 2022 (AP photo by Matt Dunham).

As Boris Johnson announced his resignation as leader of the Conservative Party and departure as British prime minister on a warm Thursday afternoon last week, the frantic world of British politics was already speculating about who his successor might be. Now, with former Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and State Minister for Trade Penny Mordaunt looking like the most viable candidates to lead the Tories, a vicious leadership battle has gained momentum.

Yet for all this sound and fury, there has been little concrete disagreement on policy among these contenders. At most, the tensions within the Tory Party are due to disagreements over when to introduce a new round of tax cuts and how much further the state budget should be cut.

One area of particular consensus is Brexit. All the candidates fighting for the Conservative Party leadership have taken pains to flaunt their belief that the U.K. must effect a full divergence from the European Union, which they have promised to pursue. They made these pledges despite the struggle of British businesses to cope with the barriers to trade they have faced since the U.K.’s departure from the EU in January 2021, and for a simple reason: Any candidate for the Tory leadership that wants to win has no choice but to double down on pursuing a “hard Brexit.”

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