Boris Johnson may not seem like a natural bedfellow with the World Cup finals, but this week two separate battles about England’s place — in Europe and in the world — have collided. Theresa May has faced not only the stepping down of Bumbling Boris, but half a dozen other Tories. While it seemed obvious that opportunistic Johnson would be stepping down to call for a leadership bid, the eerie quiet since his resignation has been all the more unnerving. “Boris Johnson has been silent since his abrupt resignation as foreign secretary on Monday, refusing media appearances and making no public statement aside from the spiky letter he sent to the prime minister,” the Guardian reports. These epic and unending interparty struggles continue to make the UK vulnerable during Brexit negotiations — but just how vulnerable remains to be seen.
I am proud to have served as Foreign Secretary. It is with sadness that I step down: here is my letter explaining why. pic.twitter.com/NZXzUZCjdF
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) July 9, 2018
But while the Brexit deadline of next March has loomed larger than ever this week, England has been facing a very different international battle. Just as many of us lament the thick-headedness of Brexit, in whatever shape it may come to take, a new nationalism has boomed as England secured its place and entered the World Cup semi-finals. As we vied for a potential finals showdown with France, politics and football fell into an uneasy parallel. This explosion of pride, though deserved, feels like folly in the light of the current negotiations — as exceptionalism and arrogance dig us into deeper and deeper holes. England’s loss in the semi-finals will no doubt come as a gut-wrenching blow to millions around the UK, but perhaps a dampening of the flames is well-timed, when we look back at the political climate.
Because, despite England’s fate in the World Cup has now been decided, the future of England is still so uncertain. As Heather Stewart and PIppa Crerar write, “May’s sense that she had faced down the rebels and weathered the storm is likely to have been shaken by Tuesday’s resignations – which took the total number of departures since Chequers to seven – and she will be worried about what the flying monkeys will unleash next.” Flying monkeys indeed — flying from within England itself. A good reminder not to ride too high on nationalism.