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Brexit was about much more than Boris

Johnson on the 2019 campaign trail

Seven years after we voted to leave the EU, says Robert Tombs in The Daily Telegraph, Remainers have finally got rid of the man they blame for it. In The Sunday Times, for example, Matthew Syed claimed Boris Johnson had “cast a spell” over the electorate. But that shows an “amazingly superficial understanding” of the politics of the past decade or more. Do commentators like Syed not understand the “deep causes, both domestic and international”, of the 2016 vote? It reminds me of a “rather grand Remainer” in Cambridge, who proudly told me she understood why people had voted to leave “because her gardener and cleaning lady had explained it” to her. And for all their talk of Vote Leave “lies”, die-hard Remainers are the ones who have been most “economical with the truth”. Mark Carney, the former governor of the Bank of England, argued that Brexit had shrunk Britain’s economy in comparison with Germany’s, when in truth “Britain had been growing faster than Germany, and still is”.

The great mistake, says Bagehot in The Economist, was tying Brexit to a set of “impossible promises”. To win over Red Wall voters, Johnson pledged higher spending, no new taxes and lower immigration – as well as taking Britain out of the EU. He managed the last of these, but this made the other three “much harder to achieve”. Brexit weighed on growth, which meant the government had to boost immigration to “give the economy a hand”. Big new schemes, such as a spanking new railway line in the north, had to be scrapped; taxes “crept up”. All of this has left the Tories underwater in those formerly rock-solid Labour constituencies that Johnson miraculously managed to turn blue in the 2019 election. “Mr Johnson is gone. His main political achievement will not live on.”