Instead of getting outraged at every step of Johnson’s Brexit catastrophe, opponents must reveal and fight his entire strategy.
Despite all the outrage expressed by Boris Johnson’s opponents, few seem to do one of the basic things needed to defeat him: figure out what his plan is and develop an alternate strategy capable of defeating him.
Johnson is, to be sure, a master of bad leadership. Happy to announce a tunnel under the Isle of Man or send gunboats to the Channel Islands to make headlines when the opportunity arises, or refuse point blank that he is responsible for the creation of a trade border in the Irish Sea despite having celebrated it was a great success a few months earlier.
But the fact that Johnson’s amateur dramas are so blatantly designed to distract should encourage his opponents to investigate and expose his true strategy all the more, but they repeatedly fail to do so.
Instead, they fall back on tired attacks on the ‘same old conservatives‘, which is one thing Johnson is not, or wrongly assume that he is the jester he often presents himself. The two critics allow him to get out of the woods.
One result is that Johnson’s critics spend a lot of energy attacking specific policies, statements, or apparent missteps without attacking the strategy of which they are a part. As a result, the attacks fall flat while the strategy and its intended outcomes survive relatively unscathed.
This scenario plays out on the trade deal yet again Trade Secretary Liz Truss is set to agree with Australia. This time, Johnson’s opponents are dismayed at the impact the deal will have on the British agricultural industry.
Agricultural unions, environmental groups and opposition parties spoke against the deal, arguing that it would drive farmers into bankruptcy and endanger animal welfare, environmental and food standards.
Johnson’s critics are right. The proposed zero-tariff, quota-free agreement would allow Australia to export meat and other products produced to standards that fall below Current European and British standards. It is cheaper to produce, and British farmers would therefore be undercut, forcing them into bankruptcy.
The UK is not even likely to make a lot of money from this deal; the Department for International Trade (DIT) estimates that the UK’s GDP will only grow by 0.025% over the next 15 years as a result.
“It is incredibly worrying that the government is in a sprint to sign a trade deal with Australia that would have serious implications for British agriculture and apparently offer very little benefit to the economy,” says Minette Batters, the president of the National Farmers Union.
“Such a trade deal would represent a bitter betrayal of rural communities, undermine and undermine our agricultural sector and pose a real threat to future viability,” says Ian Blackford, SNP chief in Westminster.
The fact that Johnson and Truss’s critics seem genuinely surprised to see another UK sector thrown to the wolves shows that they haven’t learned anything from the past two years. Agriculture meets fishing, manufacturing, financial services, the service sector more widely and any import or export company on the long list of British sectors sacrificed to Johnson’s trade policy after Brexit. Agriculture is unlikely to be the last.
Johnson’s critics miss the wood for the trees. He has no interest in protecting UK business sectors as they existed before Brexit. If he had, he would not have negotiated the ultra-hard Brexit deal he struck, fully aware of its implications for the economy. He read the same impact reports like everyone else and decided to go ahead anyway. What few have done is ask why.
The answer is both electoral and economic. In electoral terms, Brexit has worked hard for Johnson as the winner of the vote. This allowed him to create an electoral coalition that won a majority of 80 seats in December 2019 and, for the most part, continued to deliver in May 2021.
But Johnson knows that the alliance he has formed between wealthy Brexit supporters in the south and their poorer compatriots in the north will be temporary without further intervention. It is already unraveling, because local elections are the result of Oxfordshire at West Yorkshire proven. Johnson didn’t get it all his way, and he knows it.
But beyond the election, Johnson plans to transform the British economy. It is content to destroy a large part of the economy built under free access to the European single market, because it aims to create a reshaped economy in its place. Criticizing every act of destruction simply prevents adversaries from recognizing and calling attention to its intended destination.
“All of the actions, and most of the words, of the British Prime Minister are very much in keeping with the fact that he has long ago chosen to prioritize a UK-US trade deal compared to Northern Ireland, ”wrote a business expert David henig in April. “Such an agreement always had two preconditions: the Good Friday agreement was respected and the UK was free to deviate from EU food rules. Chlorinated chicken is no joke in the United States, but a fundamental requirement for trading partners. “
The trade agreement with Australia follows the same logic. Free from EU dietary rules, the UK can accommodate substandard Australian beef and other food items. Johnson’s opponents can complain, but there’s nothing they can do about it.
He will hardly care that ardent Brexiters now question their dedication (Isabel Oakeshott written “I’m a free trade Brexiteer, but the idea of beef from this Australian mega-farm in UK stores scares me” because the deal is done. The time to warn that a hard Brexit could lead to weak regulations and standards is over; that world is here and Johnson and Truss intend to take full advantage of it.
“Johnson’s goal is presumably to participate in the next UK election with a US trade deal that has proven Brexit works. Just as it entered the last with an agreement with the EU, ” said Henig. “It could be terribly cynical and extremely risky for peace [in Northern Ireland], but it seems to suit his character, and even the Conservative Party.
The trade deal with Australia is just one more step out of the EU’s regulatory orbit and towards a similar deal in the United States, where food standards and regulations – among many others – are lower. Johnson clearly believes that a series of new trade deals will prove that ‘Brexit has worked’ even if all possible trade deals combined, even including one with the United States, have. zero chance to replace lost trade and lead to a loss of prosperity due to our exit from the single market and the customs union.
This explains Johnson’s lack of interest in the British agricultural industry or the financial value of the deal to Britain. It is unlikely given that of US President Joe Biden less than favorable views of him, democrat in the broad sense opposition to its destabilization of the peace in Northern Ireland and to the limited time available to conclude a US trade deal at the time of the next election.
The deal with Australia is a mediocre second best, but will undoubtedly be followed by similar deals with other low-regulatory economies. A US trade deal is more likely to feature in Johnson’s election campaign as a sunny plateau hinged on a Tory victory.
The British are being sold a lie. Not all trade agreements in the world can compensate for the loss of membership in the single market. Post-Brexit wrote three professors of the global economy for the LSE, “the UK has no pro-trade alternative to a deal with the EU that essentially mimics the situation in which the UK is a member of the EU.” There just isn’t enough of the rest of the world to make up for the departure of its biggest trading bloc, especially when it’s on our doorstep.
Meanwhile, Johnson’s price continually reducing the size of our economy falls within the low standards, regulations and food quality that the British public say repeatedly they do not want. Johnson sells them trade deals as victories that will simply make them poorer and less healthy than they otherwise would have been.
To beat Johnson Labor and the other opposition parties, you have to wage war, not battle.
The way to beat Johnson is not to lament the loss of British agriculture, which will be denied by Johnson anyway, just as he denies the existence of the border with the Irish Sea, it is to do argue that trade agreements cannot replace the single market. , and that Johnson asks all of us to provide poor quality food for ourselves and our families.
The British public has shown little remorse for the pain felt by the import and export industries, the fishing industry or other hard hit sectors after Brexit. Farmers seem unlikely to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, except for those who live and work in agriculture and their families. But much more people care on food quality, more than they care (or understand) about GDP.
Understanding your opponent’s strategy and how you can counter it isn’t just basic warfare, it’s basic politics. The opposition must wake up with Johnson and start opposing him before it’s too late, or the next election will at least in part be a celebration of trade deals that only make us poorer and in poorer health.
Mike Buckley is director of Campaign Central and union advisor.
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