The Brief, powered by ifaw – Boris v Farage to be the British Trump

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter [Photo: EPA-EFE/WILL OLIVER]

“Of course I’m going to go for it,” said Boris Johnson of the upcoming Conservative leadership race on Thursday. That shouldn’t have surprised anyone. Johnson has been positioning himself for the leadership for years.

His main challenge will be to persuade enough of his fellow Tory MPs to get him to run off. Under the Conservative party’s rules, MPs select two candidates to go before the party membership. If Johnson gets to the final two, he will certainly win the final ballot.

So, the UK may soon have its own Donald Trump. But it’s not going to be plain sailing –  Johnson has a rival for the heir to Trump crown – Nigel Farage.

After David Cameron’s resignation in the wake of the Brexit referendum, Theresa May was the obvious choice – a safe pair of hands (or so it seemed).

Three years on, it is hard to overstate the level of public anger and disenchantment with their political class, and particularly with the Conservatives and Labour.

The UK may be split almost 50-50 by Brexit, but most Britons want Brexit to be resolved. More importantly, they also want to feel optimistic and hopeful about their country.

On the left, Jeremy Corbyn offers young people hope. Conservatives call him a Marxist and say his economic policies will be funded by ‘the magic money tree’. Another time, such attacks would have worked. They don’t any more.

Similar, liberal left Remainers can’t understand the appeal of Johnson and Nigel Farage. Quite simply, they preach an optimistic message, of putting the ‘Great’ back into Britain, the same formula that drove the successful Leave campaign.

Compare that with Labour’s equivocation over whether to support a second referendum – on which the party is still deeply divided – and the painful launch of the Conservative’s campaign on Friday, and you can understand why people are yearning for simple answers.

This reporter saw the Brexit party operation up close on Thursday. A hall outside Wolverhampton, deep in supposedly Labour voting territory, filled to the rafters with several thousand paying punters. The rally was to present the Brexit party’s MEP candidates for the West Midlands, but most people were there to see Nigel.

What Johnson and Farage have in common is a disdain for policy and a Teflon-like capacity for deflecting criticism. They are the guys who just get away with it.

Farage’s ‘man of the people’ works despite admitting that Arron Banks paid him more than £400,000, on top of his MEP salary and media earnings. So, too, does his promise to ‘sweep away the political class’, even though he, himself, is a career politician.

But there is only room for one British heir to Trump on the right, and Farage’s new party could put the Tories out of business. Both parties are now polling around 20% in surveys for a general election.

Having spent a career positioning himself to lead the Tory party, Johnson may find he claims the chair at the precise moment his party dies.


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The Roundup

By Sam Morgan

The European Commission will stay a team of 28 members, according to EU sources, despite calls for the college of Commissioners to be stripped down and streamlined.

Finance ministers have been urged by the Commission to agree on a minimum corporate taxation level, check out Jorge Valero’s story from this morning here.

Concerns over Greece and Italy grew as talks on eurozone budget stalled. Five major banks were fined €1bln for currency collusion.

Matteo Salvini fumed at a ruling by the EU’s top court on refugee returns, which confirmed that people should not be deported if their lives or freedoms are at risk in their home countries.

Anti-dumping duties against the US on ethanol have expired, irritating the EU’s domestic industry, which has cited economic and climate implications as a result.

Europe will build a Tesla-inspired battery mega factory, after the EIB said it would stump up the €350m needed to kick start investment. E-mobility got a shot in the arm in Germany, when the upper house of the parliament approved the use of e-scooters on the country’s roads.

Who said words don’t matter? A flawed translation briefly soured Franco-German relations, while The Guardian has decided to get strict with how it reports on climate change (now known as climate emergencies).

Amsterdam’s mayor was pelted with beer cans during football club Ajax’s homecoming parade. She’ll count her lucky stars that legendary goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar was standing next to her to help shield her from the barrage.

Look out for…

Game of Thrones finale. It’s finally over.

Views are the author’s

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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