Voters will be offered some stark choices on Brexit, alongside the usual overenthusiastic promises, scary scenarios, misrepresentations and foggy numbers. Will the British double down on wanting to leave the European Union? Or will they change their minds and decide to stay in the largest trading club on the planet?
The Conservative Party under Johnson will run as 100 percent for Brexit, under the banner “Get Brexit done.”
The prime minister is planning to campaign against the establishment: the devious opposition, overreaching jurists and other elites who he says have conspired to deny the country its freedom from the European Union.
Never mind that Johnson is a scion of privilege — a diplomat’s son, schooled at Eton and Oxford, who went on to become a celebrity journalist and politician with a country home.
“There is only one way to get Brexit done in the face of this unrelenting parliamentary obstructionism, this endless, willful, fingers-crossed, ‘not me, guv’ refusal to deliver on the mandate of the people,” Johnson said Tuesday, “and that is to refresh this Parliament.”
He hopes that an election will allow his party to regain its parliamentary majority and give him a mandate to do Brexit his way, according to the terms of the withdrawal deal he negotiated with E.U. leaders.
The new Brexit Party, led by talk show host Nigel Farage, will be 200 percent for Brexit, arguing: Why even talk to the Europeans anymore? Let’s crash out.
The Liberal Democrats will campaign to stop Brexit. And have a second referendum.
The Scottish National Party will push to remain in the European Union — and, by the way, promote Scottish independence.
And then there’s Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party, now the main opposition.
Labour has said it will seek a 21st-century socialist agenda, aiming to take back control of utilities and transport, pursue a radical Green New Deal to curb climate change, and put workers on corporate boards. It will campaign under the banner: “For the many not the few.”
“We will launch the most ambitious, radical campaign for real change,” Corbyn pledged Tuesday.
But Labour has adopted an awkward position on Brexit. The party’s official plan is: Let’s win the election; then let’s negotiate a very soft, very closely aligned “Labour Brexit” with Europe; then let’s have a Labour Party conference to decide whether to support the deal; and finally let’s have a second referendum to see whether the people support it.
Johnson has said that Corbyn wants to spin Brexit out to “forever.”
Labour lawmaker Jess Phillips said that even though voters will cast ballots with Brexit on their minds, the outcome will be open to interpretation and manipulation.
“This is going to be a Brexit referendum whether we like it or not,” Phillips told Parliament. “Except we won’t be being clear and we won’t be being honest, none of us will be, and what we get back, we will be able to see whatever we want to see.”
Recent opinion polls have put the Conservative Party 10 points above Labour. But pollsters caution that it’s early. Theresa May, Johnson’s predecessor, had a 20-point advantage over Labour when she called an election in April 2017. But Labour slashed that lead over the course of the campaign, costing May her parliamentary majority.
John Curtice, a politics professor at Strathclyde University, said that if Johnson maintains his 10-point lead until Election Day — and that’s a big if — “that should be enough to deliver an overall majority, not necessarily an overwhelming one, but probably enough for him to be able to do what he wants to do on Brexit.”
But Curtice noted that if Johnson’s Conservatives don’t win an overall majority, they have fewer friends than Labour with which to broker deals.
In a bit of pre-election maneuvering, Johnson on Tuesday night readmitted 10 of the 21 lawmakers he kicked out of the Conservative Party last month. Those back in his good graces include Nicholas Soames, grandson of Winston Churchill.
The agreement on an election — expected to be approved by the House of Lords this week — is a bit of rare good news for Johnson, who has suffered defeat after defeat since he was selected as the leader of the Conservative Party and prime minister in July.
Lawmakers approved in principle the Brexit deal he negotiated with E.U. leaders, but then the House of Commons said no to the fast-tracked timetable Johnson wanted to get the legislation approved.
In that vote, he needed the support of two-thirds of lawmakers — and fell far short. Tuesday’s bill required only a simple majority, though he won easily, 438 to 20, after opposition parties dropped their objections.
Outgoing European Council President Donald Tusk, who spent more time on Brexit than he probably wanted to during his five-year term, announced Tuesday that the 27 remaining E.U. members had formally approved a Brexit extension until the end of January.
“It may be the last one. Please make the best use of this time,” he urged Britons, adding, “I will keep my fingers crossed for you.”