by N. Peter Kramer
The fact that Boris Johnson has maintained a consistent line in the Brexit saga earns him compliments in his own country. He gets even pats on the back from the most critical (anti-Brexit) observers. Tim Shipman, chief of politics at The Sunday Times who wrote a damning book ‘All out war’ about the Brexit negotiations, thinks that ‘madman’ Johnson deserves praise for the agreement. ‘His critics’, Shipman writes, ‘ like to scoff at his fanatic about Churchill, but they, too, can hardly deny that he has become one of the most consistent politicians of his generation’. Also Laura Kuensberg, head of politics at the (anti-Brexit) BBC, agrees: ‘The politician who was said to never be able to keep his promises has succeeded in fulfilling his most important commitment, to get the UK out of the EU with an agreement’ .
Of course, the newspapers which were always Brexit-minded, bring out the censer. The Mail on Sunday, for instance, calls Johnson ‘ a human bulldozer’ who despite all the harassment and opposition -especially from Barnier – has hold firmly. As a result, the EU made concessions, after a last minute interference by Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen. In his first press conference after the deal had been reached, Boris Johnson said: ,We have taken back power; we are back in control of our money, our borders, our laws and our waters. We no longer have to circle the EU like a moon’.
From the moment Johnson decided to give full support to the Leave campaign, he has at least been fairly consistent in his Brexit line. He resigned from Theresa May’s government because he felt she was listening too much to the EU’s demands and was even humiliated by Brussels. Johnson managed to become her successor as prime minister and, a year ago, win convincingly the elections on the promise of finalising Brexit. He is again the undisputed leader of the Conservatives. When he handed Labour a landslide election defeat a year ago, he had already achieved that status. But the corona crisis has put him in trouble. A week ago he was still under fire in the friendly press. That criticism has stopped. With the agreement he puts an end to the ‘eternal’ debate about the EU that has split his party in two for years.