Boris Johnson must spurn overtures from global illiberal elite – leader comment

If Boris Johnson wins the general election, he must return to being the kind of liberal Conservative he was as London mayor and not embrace the likes of Donald Trump, Nigel Farage and co.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson
Prime Minister Boris Johnson

Nigel Farage’s call for Boris Johnson to abandon his Brexit deal – with the threat that Brexit Party candidates will stand in every seat if he does not – is, almost certainly, optimistic at best.

With opinion polls putting the Conservatives well ahead, it is unlikely that the Prime Minister will perform what would be a humiliating U-turn and embrace Farage’s offer of joining him in a “Leave alliance”.

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From a tactical point of view, it makes much more sense to warn right-wing Brexiteers that supporting Farage will only split their votes and help Labour or other parties, as Johnson did yesterday.

For all sensible Remainers and Leavers, that should be a source of comfort, because Farage’s stance would almost certainly result in the disaster of a no-deal Brexit. He may have talked about getting a deal, but only in terms that the European Union would never, and indeed could never, accept.

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So if Johnson did team up with Farage to form what Donald Trump claimed would be “an unstoppable force”, it would only be one that caused potentially catastrophic damage to the UK economy. If Brexit is to happen, the UK needs to get a deal that will reduce the resulting harm by as much as possible.

Cynics might suggest that if post-Brexit Britain ends up on its economic knees, then it would be in the worst position possible for any resulting negotiations with the US about a trade deal. They might also speculate that Vladimir Putin would be delighted to see the UK fall into a recession with knock-on effects on the EU.

Johnson needs to avoid the traps represented by hands of friendship from Trump and Farage and, after his sojourn among his party’s hardcore Brexiteers, return to being the kind of liberal Conservative he was as mayor of London. That represents his best chance to make a success of his term of office. For when the effects of Brexit start to hit home, the UK may well need significant help from the Government to get us through what may be a particularly difficult time.

Recessions are well-known as the breeding grounds of extreme politics and Johnson needs to be wise to that risk; he may need to make some new alliances and shed some current ones.

The global illiberal elite are trying to draw Johnson into their camp. If he wins the coming election, he must resist.