On the day when Boris Johnson became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom with a vision to make Britain great again, England’s cricketers were humiliated at Lords by Ireland who dismissed them for 85 in just under four hours.
While that drubbing by an Irish side of part-timers against a team that had only recently won cricket’s World Cup will not have had political significance, it’s a telling metaphor of the tests facing the new Prime Minister as he tries to take Britain out of the European Union come October 31. Beware the Irish.
As far as the EU27 are concerned, there is no going back on the withdrawal agreement negotiated between its representatives and the UK government under Theresa May. While Johnson campaigned for the leadership of the Conservative party on a promise to renegotiate a better deal with Brussels before that Halloween deadline, it says the agreement is signed and sealed and must be delivered by the House of Commons. May tried three times and failed to get that deal through the Commons.
And her sticky wicket has been the backstop. How ironic that the greatest test facing Johnson will depend then that cricketing term — the backstop — a guarantee that no matter what happens down the line, the border between the Republic of Ireland and the UK province of Northern Ireland will remain open and free of customs or security checks.
There are those who say that by eliminating the moderates, Johnson will in effect be governing from an echo chamber — the only voice of reason will be his, the only views heard will be his, and the only way forward will be his.
Beware the Irish. It is they who were adamant on this as soon as the Brexit word was even uttered. The other 26 EU nations were in complete agreement, it became one of the four key principles that had to be conceded by the UK before any real Brexit talks could continue — it’s a veto issue for Ireland in Brussels and they won’t be afraid to use it — and has placed Johnson and every other hard Brexiteer in a bind.
In forming his cabinet, the 55-year-old former journalist, former Mayor of London and former Foreign Secretary has shifted the UK government firmly to the right, purging moderates and Remainers from the heart of the administration.
There are those who say that’s a good thing — he starts out with the loyalty of those he elevated to the cabinet table and those who were loyal to him personally and to the cause of Brexit.
And there are those who say that by eliminating the moderates, Johnson will in effect be governing from an echo chamber — the only voice of reason will be his, the only views heard will be his, and the only way forward will be his.
There will be no voice of reason from the former Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, who knows all too well the real costs of a potential no-deal Brexit come October 31.
Jeremy Hunt, Johnson’s rival for the leadership of the Conservative party, campaigned too along similar lines but was willing to move that deadline if necessary in an attempt to reach a new political deal with Brussels. Hunt was purged from his post as Foreign Secretary after he refused to accept a demotion from Johnson for the Defence portfolio.
In all, 17 cabinet ministers were shown red cards by Boris as he remade his administration with staunch Brexiteers and those from the right-wing of the party.
Priti Patel, the new Home Secretary with responsibility for policing, fighting crime and immigration, had resigned as International Development Secretary from the May cabinet for unauthorised contacts with the Israeli occupation administration of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. As recently as eight years ago, she was advocating the return of capital punishment in the UK. One of the preconditions for joining the EU is the removal of capital punishment from national statue books, and one can only wonder whether that might indeed be revived when the UK is free of those weary and heavy shackles clamped on British wrists by Brussels.
Sajid Javid, the former Home Secretary, has been appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer. His back story in interesting in that his father moved to the UK from Pakistan and settled in Rochdale with just £1 (Dh4.59) in his pocket. He became a bus driver and earned enough to be able to buy a small corner store in Bristol, moving his family there. Javid was a smart and ambitious investment banker, one smitten by the economic policies of Margaret Thatcher.
Those involved breaking the power of trade unions, remaking traditional British industries such as shipbuilding, steelmaking and coal mining, and selling off the UK’s water, train and electricity industries. It was all about putting money back into people’s pockets and making the state smaller. Too bad that today, the water system is broken by under-investment while the franchise system of rail ownership is a shambles. Too few trains, too few routes, too high ticket prices.
It costs £100 to take a train from London to Glasgow. You can fly for £39.99. No wonder Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon called for a new referendum on Scotland’s independence. Beware the Scots too in making Britain great again.