Tel. +44 (0)20 7287 4414
Tel. +44 (0)20 7287 4414
The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.
The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.

Bruges Group Blog

Spearheading the intellectual battle against the EU. And for new thinking in international affairs.

Barry Legg on Boris


"Never glad confident morning again" This was the phrase used by Nigel Birch in the Profumo debate of June 1963 to encapsulate the situation in which Prime Minister Harold Macmillan found himself. Four months later, Macmillan decided to resign.

I have always been struck by the similarities between Macmillan and Johnson. They both went to Eton and Baliol College Oxford, although Macmillan achieved a First-Class degree and Boris did not.

Macmillan led his Party to their biggest general election victory in over twenty years. The campaign was fought on the underlying message – "You've never had it so good" can you think of a more boosterish Boris type phrase than this.

The European Union, or Common Market, was central to both of their careers. Macmillan U-turned and decided that joining the EEC was in the country's best interests, and Boris U-turned and decided that leaving was in the country's best interests.

Neither of these Prime Ministers had any great attachment to Conservative orthodoxy.

"Never glad confident morning again" perfectly sums up the predicament in which Boris now finds himself, and more of that later but first some good news for Brexiteers.

Suella Braverman, the Attorney General, has announced that she will introduce a Brexit Freedom Bill which will remove the special status and supremacy of EU law within the United Kingdom. This provides us with the opportunity to remove swathes of secondary legislation from the statue book, which is undermining our ability to strike a fresh and independent course.

Suella is a Bruges Group speaker and one of the twenty-eight 'Spartan' Conservative MPs who consigned Theresa May's version of Brexit to the wastepaper basket.

Let's hope Boris wakes up soon and promotes her to a senior position in his somewhat lacklustre Cabinet.

Regrettably, the Northern Ireland Protocol remains a grave threat to the unity of the United Kingdom. We cannot have a part of the UK subject to a different supreme court from the rest of our country.

Last week, Jeffrey Donaldson, the Leader of the DUP gave a comprehensive analysis in the House of Commons of the defects of the Northern Ireland Protocol. Surprisingly the Prime Minister declared that he agreed with everything Jeffrey said. Boris must now follow through and give Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss, a much tougher negotiating brief for her dealings with the EU.

It is now nearly six years since the British people voted to leave the European Union and still much more remains to be done.

Where are the lower prices we were promised from reduced tariffs?

I am afraid that those who lobby on behalf of farmers and foreign car makers have been all too successful.

And what has happened to that nimbler regulatory framework that we were promised? Unfortunately, it looks like big banks and insurers have stood in the way - at the expense of boosterish start-ups.

And what, what has happened to the pledge to reduce VAT on energy bills at this time of soaring prices.

There are many policy issues that Boris needs to address, but the continuing saga of Party Gate is undermining his credibility.

There seems to have been a drinking culture at Number Ten and the Cabinet Office for a number of years, even under the Premiership of the sanctimonious Theresa May.

The one potential charge relating to Party Gate which could prove fatal for Boris relates to the alleged celebration party held in the Prime Ministers flat to mark the departure of Dominic Cummings. Everyone knew that domestic parties were contrary to Covid rules and its difficult to see how Boris could survive as Prime Minister if he played mein host.

Dominic Cummings is a great self-publicist, but he is not a Conservative, and he dislikes most Conservative MPs. He successfully engineered the dismissal of Sajid Javid as the Chancellor of the Exchequer and his replacement by Rishi Sunak. The campaign to leave the European Union took some twenty-five years and during nearly the whole of that period Dom was absent the battlefield. Boris' mistake was ever to employ such a destabilising figure at Downing Street in the first place.

The local elections in May could decide Boris' fate and there are two policy issues of real substance which he will need to overcome.

First is the increase in national Insurance contributions which will take place in April. The increase will mean that the marginal rate of tax for those earning only £25,000 per annum will rise to 33.3%. This flies in the face of well-established conservative principles. Well done to Bruges Group speakers Esther McVey, John Redwood, and Philip Davies in being amongst the ten Conservative MPs who voted against this measure in the House of Commons.

The Conservative 2019 manifesto rules out a national insurance hike in black and white.

The Prime Minister and the Chancellor broke this key manifesto pledge claiming that it is necessary to find a new mechanism to fund social care, but raising taxes on those working for very modest earnings cannot be justified as a way of paying for the care costs of asset owning pensioners.

Raising the tax burden to a seventy-one-year high and breaking manifesto pledges is as many MPs are now realising, politically toxic for the Conservative Party.

The second change in April, which could further undermine Boris is the increase in energy prices of up to 50%. Many will question why VAT is charged on these essential supplies now we have left the European Union, and Boris' decision to be an advocate for green energy might rightly or wrongly be considered as one of the reasons why energy prices are rising so significantly.

Boris Johnson may find out, as Margaret Thatcher did in 1990, that the problem for leaders with large majorities is that there are more Members of Parliament who are worried about losing their seats.

The fences on this course are getting so high that even a political jockey with Boris' skills, may not be able to stay in the saddle. 

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Tel: 020 7287 4414
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