At this moment in time, it is difficult to join the words “Great” and “Britain” without a wry smile. Theresa May fell on her sword and took with her the “stable government” she kept talking about. Boris Johnson has finally broken onto the scene in what many believe will be one of the shortest premierships in UK history. He has already been described as the “last PM of the United Kingdom” with the Union on its knees, racked by infighting and more court cases than even Judge Rinder could handle. And that is not even the worst of it!
The UK government has tried the "softly, softly" approach with EU counterparts. God bless her, Theresa May tried, tried and tried again to get her withdrawal agreement through Parliament. But, the knives were out, her days were numbered and Boris came to the rescue on his trusty steed. Well, that’s how it was portrayed!
Many are describing Boris Johnson as a “Marmite” Prime Minister - you either love him or you hate him, there is no in-between. Opinion polls show a continuing bounce in Tory support, yet the headlines suggest unrest across the UK. There is no doubt his hard-nosed approach to Brexit has galvanised the Brexiteers, but the knives are out after jettisoning 21 Remainers from the party. Grandees such as Ken Clarke have had the whip removed and there will be no more “fighting them on the beaches” with Winston Churchill’s grandson part of the brutal cull.
We now have the general election dance: you put your left leg in, your left leg out, in-out, in-out and shake it all about. After calling for a general election for the last two years Jeremy Corbyn has decided “the time is not right” although Boris Johnson is ready for the fight. So the UK government has effectively given itself a “vote of no confidence” while the opposition parties have given a backhanded “vote of confidence”. Can this be right?
Today we hear that Boris Johnson will be fighting fire with fire as he puts the finishing touches to a raft of legal challenges. What with elephant traps for Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson suggesting he would rather “die in a ditch” than ask for a Brexit extension, the farce continues. Or have we stepped onto the set of “Carry On Brexit”?
Rats leaving a sinking ship or MPs who have suddenly found their “conscience”, you decide. With more high-profile resignations expected the Tory exit door continues to swing like a busy night at the saloon. Will Boris Johnson really ignore Parliament and the rule of law? While more likely he will fall on his sword and resign by the end of October, rule nothing out as the UK government continues to implode. Can you imagine Boris doing porridge?
The Brexiteers may have renewed vigour, laser-like focus and a willingness to fight the fight, but what next? Can we look forward to Halloween and an exit from the European Union? Or will this turn into a nightmare on Downing Street?
Stumbling into an economic downturn
Since the EU referendum back in the summer of 2016 (should we be bursting into a chorus of the Bryan Adams classic?) experts have been forecasting a collapse in the UK economy. While it has taken three years and reams and reams of negative headlines, it looks as though the UK economy has finally succumbed. The second quarter of 2019 saw the UK economy shrink by 0.2% compared to the previous three months. Even though this figure could be upgraded on reflection, it would be too little too late with the headlines damning for the UK economy. So how does this compare to the rest of the world?
Well, surprise surprise, the UK is not the only economy struggling. Germany is on the verge of tipping into recession and France saw an even sharper slowdown in industrial production. These are the two remaining powerhouses of Europe once the UK leaves – not a very good start? There is growing pressure on the European Union to reopen the withdrawal agreement, remove the Irish border issue from negotiations and get on with talks. You could argue that the EU is stuck between a rock and a hard place while the UK is looking over the end of a huge precipice. It is debatable as to which position is the worst.
Confidence breeds confidence, but…
Concern breeds concern. As sterling continues to hit new lows, businesses are holding off investment which will impact jobs. The new UK government are talking the talk but will they walk the walk? Boris Johnson has promised £10 billion in additional investment, how will the Chancellor juggle his numbers later in the year?
If you take a step back and look at the situation from a distance. The UK economy did shrink during the second three months of 2019. But this was compared to a first quarter which benefited from stockpiling. Are we comparing apples and pears? There is no doubt these are two very different economic quarters. However, the impact on business is starting to show through. Companies are reducing their recruitment, scaling back investment and waiting for the next instalment of the UK vs the EU. This is the comedy show that just keeps on giving, and giving, and giving….
The global knock-on effect
Unless the two warring parties can come together and swallow their pride, there will be a knock-on effect on the global economy. The economies of the UK and EU member states would be impacted. This would reduce overall wealth with less money to spend on goods and services imported from both inside and outside of the EU. However, many countries outside of the EU are very keen to state their position and book a ticket on the UK rollercoaster ride.
Australia and the US have already suggested a free trade deal with the UK could be wrapped up very quickly. There are suggestions the UK should fire up the old Commonwealth bandwagon and start again. US criticism of the EU continues to build, described as undemocratic, slow-moving and stubborn. This at the same time as the US continues to negotiate a free-trade deal with the EU!
All to play for
The unblocking of the Brexit debacle is akin to the chain of buyers and sellers involved in a property purchase. Once the blockage is removed, funds will flow and confidence will follow. Like a shootout at the O.K. Corral, who will blink first, who will draw their weapon and deal the killer blow?
Boris Johnson is waiting on the sidelines for the first sign of weakness. The EU is standing at the saloon doors waiting to ambush the UK government. Will they both draw at the same time in a bizarre suicide pact? Or will they put their guns back in their holster, sit down and discuss Brexit like adults?