In anticipation of Boris Johnson succeeding Theresa May by Monday evening, two cabinet ministers have pre-announced their resignation; meanwhile, the Irish Republic prepares to install border checks as the likelihood of no-deal Brexit increases.
British cabinet walkouts
By Monday evening, the 160,000 members of the Conservative party will have returned their ballots for either Boris Johnson or Philip Hammond; most analysts project a convincing victory for the Mayor of London, who has vowed to take the UK out of the EU by October 31st, with or without a deal.
In case of a victory for the former Mayor of London, Chancellor Philip Hammond has warned that he will submit his resignation to prime minister Theresa May before she resigns, as he would never sign up to a no-deal Brexit policy.
Unlike Johnson, Hunt has committed to further extending the UK’s EU membership in order to secure a new Brexit deal, if that is possible. However, Mr Hammond has limited scope for manoeuvre, as he had made the Irish backstop a red line, precluding any possibility for an agreement that would resemble the one negotiated by Theresa May.
Asked by the BBC whether he would move to vote against his government in a no-confidence motion, Hunt said he was not prepared to exclude anything, adding that he did not think it would it would come to that.
In leaving the cabinet, Hammond will be followed by Justice Secretary David Gauke. “If the test of loyalty to stay in the cabinet is a commitment to support no-deal on October 31 – which, to be fair to him, Boris has consistently said – then that’s not something I’m prepared to sign up to,” Gauke told the Sunday Times.
Last week, a majority of 41 in the House of Commons approved an amendment that instructs the government not to “prorogue the parliament” prior to October 31st, essentially leading the UK outside the EU while calling for national elections.
Irish Border control
Meanwhile, the Republic of Ireland is bracing for border controls.
In a statement to the BBC, the Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney warns that Ireland would have “no choice” but to protect its place in the EU’s single market if the UK “forces a no-deal Brexit on everybody else.”
“If the House of Commons chooses to facilitate a no-deal Brexit and if the new British prime minister chooses to take Britain in that direction, then it will happen. But this will be a British choice, not an Irish choice, not an EU choice, this is a British choice,” Coveney said.
Both Johnson and Hunt have vowed to eliminate the Irish backstop, a clause in the Withdrawal Agreement negotiated by Theresa May that guarantees that the Customs Union and the Single Market remain in force across Ireland until the two parties come to an agreement on how to protect the Good Friday Agreement.
One of the ideas put forward by the Conservative party is to set a time limit on the backstop clause, although neither Brussels or Dublin are interested on an arbitrary time limit. The EU has agreed to a UK-wide backstop – that keeps the country in the Single Market – but that is an idea categorically rejected by hardline leave campaigners.
In the Strasbourg Agreement of March 2019, the EU was willing to discuss a so-called “alternative arrangements” solution for Ireland, that is, a technology-intensive solution which Brexit advocates say would allow for the emergence of a virtual border, without a physical barrier in place. However, the onus is on the UK to present such a technology, which has not been tried elsewhere in the world.