BORIS JOHNSON was preaching to the converted when he made his first Tory conference speech as party leader – those present were his most diehard supporters and the Prime Minister loves playing to an audience.
However the real test of this setpiece address, slightly more measured than his confrontational attacks against his Commons opponents, will be whether it yields a last gasp with Brexit deal ahead of the October 31 deadline.
Time is certainly against Mr Johnson – he has just a fortnight before a ‘make or break’ summit with his EU counterparts and Parliament remains hostile to the approach because of the belligerence that he has shown since succeeding Theresa May.
The regret, however, is that Mr Johnson is only now coming to terms with the Brexit consequences of customs checks on the Northern Ireland border when he, as de facto head of the Leave campaign, should have been putting forward practical solutions, rather than glib statements, during the 2016 referendum.
A conundrum summarily dismissed as ‘Project Fear’ when former premiers Sir John Major and Tony Blair, architects of the peace process, highlighted the complexity of the issue during a joint visit to Northern Ireland, Mr Johnson’s new proposals, nevertheless, deserve to be considered in detail rather than being dismissed out of hand at very first glance.
Why? A failure to engage will only increase the likelihood of a no-deal Brexit – either the Government will circumvent the so-called Benn Bill because European Union treaties take precedence in law or the EU will reject another application to extend Article 50 and prolong the uncertainty. And, in doing so, the political and economic upheaval caused by the UK crashing out of the EU without a managed deal will render redundant the optimistic vision for Britain that Mr Johnson set out amid the guffaws.