The Corner


Boris Johnson Resigns. Tory Coup Against May Imminent?

And another one goes.

Over the weekend, Prime Minister Theresa May was trumpeting the final agreement of her Cabinet on a Brexit negotiating position, achieved at Chequers. As I write, she is still trumpeting it in Parliament. A white paper is forthcoming on Thursday.

However she is doing so in the face of ridicule from Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn, and her colleagues are wondering whether her time at the head of government is drawing to a close.

Since this agreement was announced, she’s had to endure the resignation of two Cabinet ministers. David Davis, who was the Brexit Secretary, resigned over the weekend. And this morning, her Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, also resigned.

All eyes are turning toward arch-Brexiteer Michael Gove, the energetic MP who sets about making headlines in whatever department he’s dropped. Currently he’s Secretary for the Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs. Will Gove be raised to Foreign Secretary? Or will he also resign from the government, potentially to join a Tory coup against May?

My hunch is he stays on as long as possible. But I’m not wagering on it.

May’s agreed negotiating position is a creative and unprincipled fudge, with promises almost individualized to each constituency. Frictionless trade across the Irish border in goods, but not services, enabled by a U.K.–EU Free-Trade Area. But an escape from the customs union, so that the U.K. can set its own fisheries policy. (Good for Scotland.) Some continuing regulatory alignment with the EU, but freedom to make new trade deals (so long as there are carve outs allowing for that continued alignment). It’s an attempt to keep every promise.

The agreement may die before the EU gets to finish reading it. With these resignations, a coup against May could be imminent. I might wager on that.


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