While it is common for politicians to idolize Winston Churchill, Boris Johnson has gone further than most, writing a lengthy biography of the former prime minister—whose position Johnson clearly hopes to someday occupy. Where Churchill urged fighting on beaches, landing grounds, fields, streets, and hills, never surrendering, however, Johnson has distinguished himself recently by his eagerness to flee the field of battle after brief, backroom struggles.
On Monday, Johnson, the British foreign secretary, resigned from the government rather than back Prime Minister Theresa May’s compromise proposal for British departure from the European Union. It’s Johnson’s second dramatic departure in roughly two years, after his surprising decision not to seek the prime minister’s office immediately following the Brexit vote. Johnson is coming to resemble less Sir Winston and more Monty Python’s Brave Sir Robin.
Johnson is the second minister in two days to leave May’s cabinet, following David Davis, the secretary in charge of Brexit. Over the weekend, May gathered her cabinet at Chequers, the prime minister’s country house, to hammer out an offer from Britain to the EU. May’s pitch to cabinet members was that they must sign on or get out. Brexit hardliners, however, have objected to May’s plan, which has been described as “soft Brexit”—that is, keeping the U.K. fairly closely integrated to the union. Davis favored a harder Brexit, and resigned. Johnson did too, writing in his resignation letter than he did not believe the U.K. was likely to achieve the independence and autonomy that voters demanded in the Brexit vote. “We are truly headed for the status of colony—and many will struggle to see the economic or political advantages of that particular arrangement,” he wrote.