British Prime Minister Boris Johnson can’t stop losing.
His “plan” to keep a no-deal Brexit on the cards (which Johnson insists is necessary despite the catastrophic economic damage it could cause) was defeated twice in the Houses of Parliament on Wednesday. Shortly after, Johnson was defeated by Parliament in his attempt to call a general election.
There is also mounting anger within the Conservative Party on Johnson’s decision to expel 21 Conservative Members of Parliament (MP) from the party, who were all opposed to letting Britain leave the European Union without a deal.
But, according to President Donald Trump, Johnson is, in fact, doing a superb job. “Boris is a friend of mine and he’s going at it, there’s no question about it,” Trump told reporters on Wednesday afternoon. “He knows how to win, Boris knows how to win. Don’t worry about him he’s going to be OK.”
Then, on Thursday Johnson — who once said that Trump had a “quite stupefying ignorance that makes him, frankly, unfit to hold the office of the president of the United States” — suffered yet another defeat. And this one was much more personal: Jo Johnson, Boris’ younger brother and a Conservative MP, resigned from Parliament.
“In recent weeks I’ve been torn between family loyalty and the national interest,” Jo Johnson tweeted. “It’s an unsolvable tension and time for others to take on my roles as MP & Minister.”
The fact that Johnson’s own brother has resigned from his government, barely a month-and-a-half into his tenure as prime minister, highlights the intractable Conservative civil war at the heart of the Brexit debate, which has completely fractured the party.
This is further emphasized by the prominence of a few of the MPs expelled by Johnson earlier this week, which includes former chancellor of the Exchequer (the second-most important position in British politics) Phillip Hammond, as well as Nicholas Soames, the grandson of Winston Churchill about whom, ironically enough, Johnson previously wrote a biography.
Trump, for his part, previously promised that “We’re going to do a very big trade deal — bigger than we’ve ever had with the U.K.” But whether that would actually happen is, as with everything Brexit-related, very much an open question. Such a trade deal would inevitably anger the United States’ trading partners within the European Union (both the individual countries and the block as a whole).
What’s more, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has warned that Congress would block any legislation if it undermines the Good Friday peace agreement concerning Northern Ireland. The key debate is over the border separating the Republic of Ireland from Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom.
European officials are desperate to preserve the “backstop” (i.e. a seamless border between Northern Ireland and the Republic) which was one of the key provisions of the Good Friday Agreement. Johnson, however, has been repeatedly pushing for a hard border between the two countries.
“Whatever form it takes, Brexit cannot be allowed to imperil the Good Friday agreement, including the seamless border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland, especially now, as the first generation born into the hope of Good Friday 21 years ago comes into adulthood,” Pelosi said earlier in August. “We cannot go back.”