Boris Johnson is the defacto leader of the Conservative Party, but a definitive victory for him is not likely.
Immediately after the referendum result, Johnson was invited to the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, in which they both declared their support for a Brexit deal (of the type now in play). The media continued to give Johnson the much-coveted front-page headline, but his influence was limited. He did not have the stature or connections to have been named the leader of the party.
After he became the campaign co-chairman for the Vote Leave campaign, Johnson had a much more prominent role. The press cheered on his leadership, and claims that he is the founder of the Brexiteers have been widely reported. But his reputation as a Chequers zealot and hardliner is common knowledge.
However, he is now being pushed into a battle with Emmanuel Macron. On Tuesday, the French President announced that Britain could not get a special status after Brexit, which is taking place on March 29, 2019. Johnson took the opportunity to flaunt his foreign policy credentials and to criticize the president.
The Conservatives could not get to an agreement on Brexit with Labour and the Liberal Democrats, so the prime minister had to secure a deal with the three other EU countries – France, Germany and Italy. Macron is seen by many in the party as a strong French leader, a position that Trump respects greatly.
His victory in 2019’s presidential election raised the chances of the election being held before the 2019 European Parliament elections, when he may want to contest the presidency. Johnson is a real threat to him, and seems to enjoy a personal rapport with him.
One Downing Street source told The Daily Telegraph: “If Johnson seems to be riding his white horse into a barn, Macron will throw out a white flag. When he looks his guest in the eye and talks about France and its place in the world, he’s all cold and distant. He’s very much in command of the facts.”
Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, was keen to hold the referendum for June this year. This was, after all, when Brexit would be happening. But on March 15, in light of growing doubts over the deal between the EU and the U.K., Theresa May announced the vote will be held on the 14th of June.
But according to The Telegraph, the mood in the cabinet is grim, with attempts being made to postpone the vote, fearing a huge defeat. There is even talk of May’s leadership being put under pressure.