LONDON (WASHINGTON POST) – A Brexit deal may be days, weeks or an eternity away, and it is tearing everyone apart – the people, the parties, even Mr Boris Johnson’s family.
The leader of opposition Labour party Jeremy Corbyn told the Germans in an interview published on Friday (Nov 9) that Brexit “cannot be stopped”.
His top lieutenants immediately went on television to say Mr Corbyn doesn’t know what he is talking about.
The Tories? They spent the weekend on the talk shows, trash-talking their prime minister, as factions threaten open revolt in Parliament this week.
And the poor public? As hopelessly divided as ever, according to the hopelessly muddled opinion polls, which suggest that the people – who in 2016 narrowly voted in favour of Britain leaving the European Union – may have changed their minds and now support “Regrexit”. Get it?
Then there is the Johnson family.
The blonde brood of mop-headed Oxford University overachievers whose best-known member is the former London mayor and former foreign secretary Boris Johnson, and the man who brought Britain Brexit, have suddenly emerged as Britain’s symbol of tumult over its departure from the continental trading bloc.
The Johnson clan is in full public churn – for and against Brexit, and each other.
Boris wants a clean break from the EU. No second thoughts. No compromise. When he quit Prime Minister Theresa May’s Cabinet in July, he wailed that Mrs May was surrendering to Brussels in Brexit negotiations and Britain was “headed for the status of a colony”.
Younger brother Jo Johnson was also part of Mrs May’s Cabinet, as Transport Minister, and he echoed some of Boris’s sentiment when he resigned in a huff on Friday.
Mrs May’s plan for Brexit was simply too much of a shambolic compromise, he said. She was presenting Britain with a choice between “vassalage” to EU rules or the “chaos” of a no-deal Brexit – think food shortages and grounded aircraft.
Except, unlike his brother, Mr Jo Johnson voted to remain in the 2016 referendum. And what he wants next is a do-over.
“It is imperative that we now go back to the people and check that they are content to proceed on this extraordinary basis,” he said.
The editorial board of the Financial Times, where Mr Jo Johnson toiled as an editor and correspondent before running for public office, called him “the serious Mr Johnson”, as opposed to the bombastic Boris.
Mr Boris Johnson, for his part, cheered his brother on, saying that though the two disagree over Brexit, his sibling was right to take a hike.
“Boundless admiration as ever for my brother Jo,” Mr Boris Johnson posted on Twitter a few hours after the announcement. “We may not have agreed about Brexit but we are united in dismay at the intellectually and politically indefensible of the UK position,” which he said “does not remotely correspond to the mandate of the people”.
Mr Jo Johnson’s exit from Brexit was also given props by his father, the author and former British politician Stanley Johnson, who shares the family’s gift of understatement, declaring that Mrs May’s Brexit plan was “careering into the jaws of death”.
Mr Stanley Johnson has experienced his own wrenching reversals over Brexit. After voting to remain in the European Union in the 2016 referendum, he later announced he had changed his mind.
“The time has come to bail out,” Mr Stanley Johnson decided in 2017.
This even though the elder Johnson had had his bread long buttered in Brussels, serving as a Tory party member of the European Parliament and as head of European Commission’s Environmental Action Programme.
Will it ever end? Apparently, no.
Ms Rachel Johnson, a broadcaster and book author and sister of Boris and Jo, was tweeting on Monday that “The problem with Brexit is Brexit”.
Rachel is a “remainer.” So much so that she left the familial perch in the Conservative Party for the Liberal Democrats in 2017 in opposition to Brexit.
And then there’s brother Leo Johnson, a broadcaster and mega-trends expert.
Leo would prefer to remain in the EU, too. He also supports a second referendum, a so-called “People’s Vote” that would allow citizens to tick Yes or No on Mrs May’s final deal – or no deal – with Brussels.
On Friday, Rachel, retweeted Leo, retweeting her after she retweeted their brother’s resignation message on Twitter.
This family feud has not escaped notice.
“Wow,” the Guardian newspaper columnist John Crace tweeted. ” Looking like 4-1 in favour of second referendum in Johnson household with only one brother and the mother yet to declare.”
That tweet, too, was retweeted by Rachel.
“Maybe way to settle this matter once and for all is to spare the country another one and simply have a referendum in the Johnson family then,” she wrote.
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