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The blowhard who blew up Britain

Boris Johnson is gone from parliament. But his poisonous Brexit legacy will go on costing us all

Image: The New European/Getty

We will be writing and talking for decades about the damage Boris Johnson has inflicted on parliament, the governance of the UK and his own Conservative Party over the last disastrous seven years. The very fact that the former prime minister would have been suspended from the House of Commons for 90 days had he not taken the coward’s way out is evidence of that.

But of equal and maybe greater significance is the destruction that one man has done to Britain’s economy. Without him and the strange hold he has over parts of the British population, Brexit would never have been won, and billions upon billions of our money would never have been lost. Now Johnson may be gone – to write a column at the Daily Mail – but the ruin he has caused us goes on and on.

And still, his ego cannot cope. Johnson’s statements over the last couple of weeks have turned the stomach in all their pathetic posturing, but the worst moment to my mind was his boast that he was going to keep lobbing hand grenades at the government over the future direction of the economy. 

This bloviating blowhard continues to witter on about the “need to show how we are making the most of Brexit”. All that needs to be said is that Johnson tried to do this when he was foreign secretary, and then when he was prime minister – or at least pretended to try – and he failed completely.

The numbers that define Johnson are not 52:48 (the Brexit vote), or 80 (his majority in 2019) or 350 (the fictional millions a week for the NHS). The key figure is 4% – the percentage of GDP that his Brexit is costing us every year, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility. This independent public body took the few things that he might claim as “Brexit wins” – new trade deals, new regulation for the UK only – and then subtracted all the huge costs Johnson loves to ignore. The resulting 4% loss is almost certainly an underestimate of the damage, but it is damage that Boris Johnson owns. 

With the almost equally useless David Frost, he negotiated a terrible deal that we are stuck with. That was bad enough, but Johnson then threatened to tear it up, meaning no one else would trust him. 

Then he barged into the negotiations with New Zealand and Australia and gave them everything they wanted and more, because he is an egotistical lightweight who didn’t even bother to master his brief.  

Johnson, therefore, added farming to the long list of sectors he has betrayed via Brexit. These include fishing, manufacturing, food production, the City, education and services. I cannot think of a single sector that the former PM has helped. The problem with cakeism is that it is built on lies, and eventually, those lies hurt real people.

Now, having run the country down to such a degree that the NHS is collapsing, more defence cuts are on the way, the economy is anaemic, and the tax take at its highest since the 1940s, the shameless charlatan is calling for tax cuts. “We need to cut business and personal taxes – and not just as pre-election gimmicks – rather than endlessly putting them up.”

He put taxes up in the first place, and does not say where the money will come from to take them down again. Even the pre-election giveaway that we all expect Jeremy Hunt to deliver will not reverse the long-running trend. As a result of Johnson and his chums, growth is pathetic, productivity terrible, living standards collapsing, and as a result we need a higher tax take to bring in enough money for the government. 

Liz Truss tried to cut taxes permanently for the rich, with no plan to fund these cuts and no sign that they would do anything for growth. The markets slaughtered her. Johnson asks us to try that again, just with added boosterism.

Johnson asks: “Why have we so passively abandoned the prospect of a free trade deal with the US?” As he knows full well, it is because when Barack Obama said we would be at the back of the queue if we left the EU, he was telling the truth. The US has no interest in a bespoke trade deal with Britain and is not going to waste one single second or cent of political capital trying to negotiate one. Johnson couldn’t even get his best mate, Donald Trump, to bother negotiating one. 

There is no trade deal to “passively abandon” and Johnson knows it. It is no coincidence that US business confidence in the UK has fallen for the third consecutive year, with the fallout from Brexit being cited as one of the main reasons for the collapse. Johnson has shredded not just his own reputation, but that of the country.

Johnson’s economically illiterate resignation diatribe ends with him asking: “Why have we junked measures to help people into housing, or to scrap EU directives?” This is rich from the man who was in charge of housing policy for years – yet failed to provide enough homes, and who created a Department for Brexit Opportunities that failed to find any such opportunities. 

It beggars belief that this lying clown, having cost us 4% of GDP and more because of Brexit, and having presided over the economy until late last year, thinks he can offer any insights worth considering. He had his chance to do all the things he is complaining about, and he failed. No one should listen to him or trust him again. 

The damage Boris Johnson has done to the UK economy is permanent and continuing. As long as the current and future governments continue with the farcical pretence that there are Brexit opportunities out there that will grow the economy, his poisonous legacy will continue. 

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