Tory leadership race reveals uncertainty over Brexit

DAILY SABAH
Istanbul
Published 13.07.2019 00:52

With the turbulent environment further exacerbated by the resignation of the Prime Minister Theresa May not so long ago, the Conservative Party leadership contest is raising more questions over the ongoing Brexit crisis in the country.

The two participants in Tuesday night's leadership debate, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt, both displayed their political and personal characteristic differences not only during the debate where Hunt came in ready to be as direct and combative as possible while Johnson displayed a more passive and smug attitude by refusing to give clear and honest answers, but also with how they reacted to the Darrock situation. A very crucial factor for the British ambassador to U.S. Kim Darroch's resignation was the lack of support from former Foreign Secretary Johnson, the current front-runner to replace PM May, during Tuesday night's leadership debate, according to CNN. By refusing to back him, Johnson threw Darroch "under the bus," said Foreign Office Minister Alan Duncan.

Meanwhile, Hunt announced that he would keep Darroch in his post if he became Britain's leader on July 23.

During the TV debate, Johnson announced that he wouldn't resign as prime minister if the deal wasn't sealed in Oct. 31. His extreme support for Brexit didn't come as a surprise since part of his career in journalism at the Daily Telegraph involved heavy euroskepticism, as his articles created divisiveness and increased tensions inside the Conservative Party and had a powerful impact on U.K. politics. The self-proclaimed "wise guy playing the fool to win," the Oxford graduate claims that the chance of a "no-deal" Brexit is a "million to one."

Johnson's behavior came from to fact that he already sees himself as the presumed winner of the ballot as he is very appealing to the older, right-wing male inhabitants of southern Britain. His target audience wants to receive some kind of validation about their Brexit decision and playing the overly optimistic populist does the trick for Johnson for now, politically speaking. His statement from Tuesday night perfectly sums up his current stance: "The whole frame of this contest is about Brexit and when we are going to leave and that is the one thing where Hunt is refusing to answer."

On the other side of the table stood Jeremy Hunt, the current secretary of state for foreign and Commonwealth affairs, the longest-serving health secretary in history and undoubtedly the more politically experienced between the two with at least 10 more years of political experience. Unlike Johnson, Hunt doesn't shy away from responding to Trump's personal attacks that he made against Theresa May and Kim Darroch as he stood behind Darroch and repeatedly asked Johnson for his resignation after Oct. 31 following a potential no-deal Brexit. According to Hunt, a no-deal exit from the EU would be "vanishingly expensive," which is not a very popular opinion among Conservatives and will probably be the deciding factor in July 23.

However, independent from the Tory leadership race, as the Brexit deadline approaches, the willingness of the EU leavers to bypass the right of MPs to have the final say on how Britain is governed displays how much of an issue Brexit has become. Every other principle, including the conservative principle of preserving a constitution that has been the status quo for three centuries, has been subordinated to Brexit. This hypocrisy has been mentioned by a number of figures and was highlighted by former PM John Major on Wednesday.

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