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Brexit will outlive Boris Johnson – POLITICO

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LONDON — Anyone hoping the British prime minister’s demise will soften Brexit ought to suppose once more.

The departure of Boris Johnson, the chief who sealed Brexit and pushed the U.Okay. authorities to consider its alternatives, might open the way in which for a brand new prime minister much less invested within the mission. But any rapid successor will discover it politically not possible to endorse a softer kind of Brexit.

There’s ample consensus among the likely candidates in favor of tweaking the Northern Ireland protocol, an important and long-negotiated a part of the Brexit divorce deal which prevents a tough land border between the area and the Republic of Ireland however introduces checks on items getting into the Northern Ireland from the remainder of the U.Okay.

Legislation giving British ministers energy to unilaterally break this settlement, lengthy controversial and disliked in European capitals and in Washington, now gained’t go earlier than Johnson leaves workplace, giving his successor the choice to ditch or amend it.

“[The Northern Ireland Protocol Bill] won’t complete its parliamentary passage in this time,” Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Brexit alternatives minister, informed Channel 4 News Thursday. “It will have further stages in the House of Commons but it won’t get anywhere near the House of Lords. An incoming prime minister would be able to say I’m not continuing with it.”

Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg | Georgia O’Callaghan through Getty Images

But even Remain-supporting Tory management contenders, reminiscent of Jeremy Hunt or Tom Tugendhat, would possibly discover it tough to ditch the invoice — particularly in the event that they attain energy with the help of the European Research Group (ERG) of hardline Tory Brexiteers.

Since Conservative leaders are first chosen by MPs after which voted on by the broader celebration membership, candidates can’t ignore the celebration base.

“They have populated the Conservative Party with a bunch of people for whom this is an act of faith,” stated Anand Menon, director of the suppose tank the UK in a Changing Europe. “The party has changed dramatically.”

Last month, Hunt reportedly approached ERG members with the pledge to take away the Irish Sea checks launched by the protocol on items shifting from Great Britain into Northern Ireland.

In his pitch for leadership Friday, Tugendhat wrote that “everyone in the next government will be committed to … fixing the Northern Ireland protocol” — with out setting out how — and added that “the full advantages of Brexit are yet to be unleashed.”

Steve Baker, a former chair of the ERG who can also be contemplating a bid for management, stated Johnson’s departure is “immaterial” for Brexit.

“The direction of the U.K. is now certain, including resolving the issues of the Northern Ireland protocol,” he informed POLITICO. “The main question is whether the next PM is enthusiastic about it and therefore delivers well. From my conversations with them, I know this applies to Jeremy and Tom too.”

New authorities, identical politics

Whoever wins the race will additionally face the identical conundrum that tied the fingers of Johnson and his predecessor Theresa May: a few of Northern Ireland’s unionists regard the protocol as slicing off the area from the remainder of the U.Okay. and refuse to re-start a power-sharing regional government till the commerce guidelines are scrapped.

Jeffrey Donaldson, chief of the Democratic Unionist Party, reiterated this place this week, calling on Johnson’s successor to do away with the protocol, and warning a “fully functioning devolved government in Stormont and the protocol cannot coexist.”

Some in Whitehall hope the EU could also be keener to make concessions to a primary minister they like and may belief greater than Johnson. That private mistrust was manifest in EU diplomats’ reactions to Johnson’s resignation.

“Clearly part of the issue has been how they felt about the PM,” a U.Okay. official stated. “That should never have been a question, it’s about Northern Ireland, not individuals. Hopefully they see that given everyone agrees the protocol isn’t working.”

MPs are resulting from scrutinize the proposals beginning Wednesday, however the invoice is not anticipated to undergo all its parliamentary levels within the Commons earlier than it breaks for the summer season.

DUP chief Sir Jeffrey Donaldson | Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Euroskeptic stress will additionally push the subsequent authorities towards slashing EU rules or at the very least speaking about it, stated Menon. “It will be impossible for a new prime minister not to at least try to give the appearance of doing this,” he added.

Those hoping for a radical change of Brexit coverage might must hope an election ushers in a brand new governing celebration. The agenda set out by Labour chief Keir Starmer final week nonetheless retains Britain out of the EU single market and customs union, Menon stated, however there may be room for offers on coverage cooperation in areas reminiscent of overseas affairs.

“The political atmosphere under Labour would be very different than under the Conservatives in the sense that Labour wants to have a good relationship with the European Union,” he added.

This article is a part of POLITICO Pro

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