“Boris is Boris.” It’s the kind of remark one associates with the ineffective owner of a pet hound that has just urinated over a beloved family couch rather than of a Prime Minister in reference to her Foreign Secretary, but here we are.
Theresa May was being asked to respond to a Telegraph article written by Boris Johnson that appeared to ride roughshod over the government’s position on Brexit. It’s strange to think that a little over a year ago, May, then merely a candidate for the premiership, mocked Johnson, talking about how the last time he “negotiated in Europe, he did a deal with the Germans [and] came back with three nearly-new water cannon”. It’s stranger still to think that just 13 days after that quip, May appointed Johnson as Foreign Secretary and immediately drastically shrunk both his and the Foreign Office’s power.
(Although the Department of International Trade shares a building with the Foreign Office, the Department for Exiting the European Union is based in the Cabinet Office – the psychological impact on morale at the FCO in removing its control over the largest foreign policy challenge in British history is large.)
Now Johnson has undermined her big Brexit intervention, which means that anything she says in Florence on Friday will either be seen as a capitulation to Johnson or at best a provisional statement of British foreign policy, and her response is “Boris is Boris”.
It’s a reminder of just how much May lost along with her parliamentary majority on 8 June.