It's decision time for Boris. Having spent months - if not years - teasing David Cameron (and the rest of us) as to whether he is an 'outer' or an 'inner' the time is fast approaching when the Mayor of London and possible future Tory leader (and Prime Minister) will have to make up his mind which side he is going to back in the EU Referendum.
So what are his options and (more to the point) what are the consequences for him of making the right or the wrong call?
Boris calls for 'Brexit' - and the country backs Brexit too
This is the highest risk strategy for Johnson - all be it the one which gives him the greatest chance of fulfilling his ultimate ambition of becoming Britain's next Prime Minister. In this version of events the Mayor says (with heavy heart) that the deal David Cameron has negotiated is not good enough and so he will lead the campaign to leave.
This would electrify the referendum. It would pit Cameron against one of the most charismatic politicians of his generation and would fundamentally change the nature of the race.
In these circumstances if the country were to vote to leave then it is inconceivable that Cameron could stay on as Prime Minister and Johnson would be uniquely placed to succeed him as the head of a new Government outside of Europe.
Boris calls for Brexit - but the country says we want to stay.
This would be the worst of all worlds for Johnson's burning ambition. He would have staked his reputation on a 'leave' vote and been rejected by the voters. He would be punished by Cameron and left to languish on the backbenches. His electoral mystique would be shattered and his chances of succeeding Cameron would disappear. Johnson knows this - and that is why he is so reluctant to take such a big risk and nail his colours to Brexit.
Boris backs 'in' and the country backs 'in' too
This is really the status quo option - and the one that, if you were reading the tea leaves today, is the most likely. Under this scenario Johnson throws his weight behind whatever deal Cameron gets and then plays a prominent role in the 'in' campaign. If he does this Johnson will expected to be rewarded by Cameron for such a show of loyalty - and he may even have raised this issue with the Prime Minister already. He will want a big cabinet job like Foreign Secretary or Home Secretary that would help position him for the leadership election which will follow when Cameron eventually decides to step down. The last thing he wants is to be handed some political poisoned chalice like Health or Work and Pensions that would destroy his political credibility faster than you can say 'waiting times' or 'universal credit'.
What has the EU ever done for us?
What has the EU ever done for us?
1/7 1. It gives you freedom to live, work and retire anywhere in Europe
As a member of the EU, UK citizens benefit from freedom of movement across the continent. Considered one of the so-called four pillars of the European Union, this freedom allows all EU citizens to live, work and travel in other member states.
2/7 2. It sustains millions of jobs
A report by the Centre for Economics and Business Research, released in October 2015, suggested 3.1 million British jobs were linked to the UK’s exports to the EU.
3/7 3. Your holiday is much easier - and safer
Freedom to travel is one of the most exercised benefits of EU membership, with Britons having made 31 million visits to the EU in 2014 alone. But a lot of the benefits of being an EU citizen are either taken for granted or go unnoticed.
4/7 4. It means you're less likely to get ripped off
Consumer protection is a key benefit of the EU’s single market, and ensures members of the British public receive equal consumer rights when shopping anywhere in Europe.
5/7 5. It offers greater protection from terrorists, paedophiles, people traffickers and cyber-crime
Another example of a lesser-known advantage of EU membership is the benefit of cross-country coordination and cooperation in the fight against crime.
6/7 6. Our businesses depend on it
According to 71% of all members of the Confederation of British Influence (CBI), and 67 per cent of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), the EU has had an overall positive impact on their business.
7/7 7. We have greater influence
Robin Niblett, Director of think-tank Chatham House, stated in a report published last year: “For a mid-sized country like the UK, which will never again be economically dominant either globally or regionally, and whose diplomatic and military resources are declining in relative terms, being a major player in a strong regional institution can offer a critical lever for international influence.
Boris back 'in' but the country backs 'leave'
This is not ideal for the London Mayor - but it is not necessarily disastrous either. Because even if there is a 'leave' vote there will still be a Tory Government and there will be a vacancy for the top job. Boris is still the Tories biggest electoral asset and a leave vote would damage George Osborne's succession chances much more that those of Johnson. Given that Theresa May is also backing 'in' and there are few credible candidates among the avowed Tory leavers any contest would leave Johnson in a strong position to Britain's next Prime Minister.
So, all in all, the smart money is on Boris backing stay. But as we all know Johnson has made a career out of being unpredictable: And so, like David Cameron, we should rule nothing out.Reuse content