March 4. 2024. 9:58

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The Brief — Bored of Boris 

For those of us who have been immune to the charms of Boris Johnson from the start, the psychological hold that the blonde has had over the Conservative party and a large chunk of the British people has always been hard to understand and fascinating to watch.

Johnson’s admirers – and there are still more than a few in Westminster and the country – believe that he will return to the premiership and win another election. But that view looks increasingly divorced from reality. The truth is that he has almost run out of road.

Lest we forget, Johnson was kicked out of Downing Street last summer not because of Brexit, policy – or lack thereof – but because his own MPs had tired of the constant crises caused by his pathological inability to tell the truth.

One of the things he misspoke in good faith, fibbed or lied about, depending on your viewpoint, was telling the UK parliament that the COVID-19 lockdown rules were not broken by a series of gatherings in 10 Downing Street at the height of the social restrictions.

Johnson, his wife, and over a hundred officials, including now Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, later received fines from the police for breaching the lockdown rules.

‘Partygate’ was the beginning of the end for Johnson, and it culminated this week in the former PM giving three hours of sworn testimony to a committee of seven MPs – four of them from his Conservative party.

Those who watched were treated to the usual Johnsonian diet of bluster and evasion. To his knowledge and official advice, the rules were followed, though Johnson admitted that the advice he received came not from a government lawyer but from his own political advisers and spin doctors.

Should the privileges committee find Johnson guilty, then it is likely to suspend him from Parliament. And if that suspension is longer than ten days, that would trigger a recall procedure and by-election in his Uxbridge constituency.

Johnson won the seat with a 7,000 vote majority in December 2019 when his party beat Labour by ten points. The Tories are now 15-20 points behind, and basic arithmetic suggests that Johnson would struggle to hold the seat.

A defeat would end his political career.

The hearing took a break in proceedings for MPs to vote on the reforms to the Northern Ireland protocol agreed by Sunak and European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen last month.

Johnson and his immediate (albeit shortlived) successor Liz Truss both voted against. Tellingly, however, only 20 other Tory lawmakers out of 356 joined them in the ‘no’ lobby.

Sunak’s ‘Windsor Framework’ sailed through by 510 votes to 29.

The vote is significant. So, too, is the fact that most Conservative MPs did not watch or support their former leader. Many of them say, albeit privately, that they are relieved he is no longer in office.

The truth is that most Conservatives, like the British people, are bored of Brexit and the constant conflict with the EU. They are also bored of Boris Johnson.

The Roundup

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen outlined limits to EU backing for nuclear power under the bloc’s Net-Zero Industry Act, which seeks to support home-made production of clean technologies like batteries and solar panels.

France asked EU member states to decide “once and for all” whether nuclear power is an asset for the bloc’s decarbonisation ahead of an EU summit that opened in Brussels on Thursday .

A significant proportion of honey imported into the EU is suspected to be fraudulently adulterated with added syrups, according to a new Commission-led analysis, marking a substantial increase from previous years.

As French President Emmanuel Macron seeks to shore up parliamentary support in the face of political crisis, some politicians are pushing for a formalised coalition between the presidential majority and the right-wing Les Republicains.

Data retention and encryption emerged as the most pressing issues for law enforcement in the EU government’s comments on the establishment of a High-Level Expert Group on police access to digital data.

Copenhagen and Berlin want a land-based hydrogen pipeline in place across the two countries’ joint borders by 2028, which would make it easier for Germany to import large volumes of hydrogen to fuel its industry.

The Polish centre-right MEP Bartosz Arłukowicz was elected by acclamation as chair of the brand-new European Parliament’s public health subcommittee (SANT) in its first-ever meeting.

King Charles has postponed his state visit to France amid ongoing unrest and protests after President Emmanuel Macron pushed a controversial pension reform through the French parliament without a vote.

The decision of the authorities in North Macedonia to de-register a Bulgarian cultural club in Bitola has sparked new tensions between the two countries and harsh comments from Bulgarian President Rumen Radev at an EU summit on Thursday.

And, last but not least, don’t forget to check out our weekly Tech Brief and the Agri Brief for a selection of top policy news.

Look out for…

  • Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas in Cairo Saturday-Sunday, meets with Assistant Interior Minister General Alaa Abdel Maati.
  • Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides participates in exchange of views with Parliament’s Special Committee on COVID-19 pandemic on Monday.
  • Crisis Management Commissioner Janez Lenarčič receives Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský on Monday.