The Brief, powered by BP – No Great Expectations

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter.

Barring a spectacular shock, a majority of Conservative party members have already voted for Boris Johnson and he will be declared as Theresa May’s successor as Prime Minister next Tuesday (23 July).

Britain will have its very own blond bombshell at 10 Downing Street.

What happens next is anyone’s guess. A no deal Brexit on October 31, another extension, a general election, another referendum – all these are possible.

Johnson has made a career out of being economical with the actualité, and getting away with it, so there is little reason why should we expect him to be bound by previous commitments to a ‘no deal’ Brexit in October if Michel Barnier and co refuse to re-negotiate the thrice-rejected Withdrawal Agreement.

In Brussels, Johnson is known for his stint as a Daily Telegraph correspondent who helped popularize the euromyth. Proving that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, he has been at it again this week, claiming, again falsely, that EU regulation requires smoked kippers (a British favourite at breakfast for those who don’t mind having bad breath for the rest of the day) to be wrapped in plastic ice pillows.

Like it or not, Johnson will be constrained by many of the same problems as Mrs May. He will have to govern without a majority and face a Parliament in which a majority opposes a ‘no deal’ Brexit and is likely to bring down his government if he tries to force it through. The Conservative party machine is preparing itself for an autumn election, even though it doesn’t want one.

Johnson is an appropriately polarizing leader for these divided times. Like Donald Trump, his critics (which number about half the population) hold him in such contempt that they expect his government to be nothing short of disastrous. For them, it must resemble how Thomas Hobbes described the state of nature: ‘nasty, brutish and short’.

The trouble with setting such low expectations is that it actually makes it easier for a Johnson or a Trump to be seen as a success . Trump is a case in point. By barely touching the economy, and not unleashing military armageddon , many moderate Republicans defend his record and stay silent at his outrages.

This should have been one of the lessons of the Cameron government’s ‘Project Fear’ campaign ahead of the 2016 referendum. The UK economy has and continues to suffer from the uncertainty caused by the last three years of Brexit confusion but people are rarely impressed by campaigns that seek to frighten them, and the apocalyptic forecasts of instant recession were ill-judged and counterproductive.

Hard as it may be, Johnson needs to be given a chance to succeed or fail based on his deeds, rather than words.


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The Roundup

By Alexandra Brzozowski

‘Environmentalist’ von der Leyen forgot farming in her speech, MEPs say. Meanwhile, European leaders will struggle to broker a stronger climate package before December, experts say, as Warsaw prepares to play hard for funding.

Poland said US President Donald Trump would attend events in Warsaw marking the 80th anniversary of the Nazi invasion of the country – though the White House said the trip was not yet confirmed.

From our own correspondent in Hong Kong: The European Parliament took a stance against the government’s recent attempts to adopt a controversial extradition bill, a matter of hours after the Chinese state accused EU lawmakers of “ignorance, prejudice and hypocrisy” for presenting the resolution.

The European Commission and the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline company are heading toward legal arbitration in their dispute, with a risk of huge fines for EU taxpayers and uncertainties for the Gazprom-led company that are even more difficult to evaluate.

The controversial Irish border backstop should not be scrapped but instead bolstered by a protocol, according to a report published by an influential group of Conservative politicians.

A United Nations human rights expert has expressed concerns about the detention conditions of migrants in Hungarian transit zones, urging authorities to move families and children to other centres with better health and sanitary facilities.

The EU-Canada summit focused on the free trade agreement (CETA), saving the WTO and doubling investments in research and development for the energy transition. However, the meeting was more symbolic.

The EU’s antitrust authority has slapped chipmaker Qualcomm with a €242 million for applying predatory prices.

Look out for…

A nice quiet weekend.

And the Belgian National Day celebrations sweeping the streets of Brussels.

Views are the author’s

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