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Boris Johnson or the five lives of a brexiter

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Published on February 01, 2020 at 01:04 – Updated on February 01, 2020 at 10:31

One day become prime minister, like Winston Churchill, his great man? "It's no more likely than being beheaded by a Frisbee or finding Elvis on Mars", joked Boris Johnson in the early 2000s. He was then a member of Parliament but already a phenomenon, full of confidence and ambition. In 2016, he took Brexit in motion, and it was his elevator to Downing Street. The course was chaotic, but he succeeded and the divorce with the European Union (EU) took place, Friday January 31.

The time of choice

Sunday February 21, 2016. Dean is a charming hamlet in Oxfordshire, north west of London. David Cameron has a cottage there, where he finds refuge with a wife and children on weekends, far from the hustle and bustle of the capital. The previous weeks have been trying for the British Prime Minister. In Brussels, he completed a difficult renegotiation of the "Relationship between the UK and the EU". The day before, at Downing Street, he assembled his cabinet in an emergency, to convince him to support the maintenance in the EU ("Remain") in the referendum scheduled for June.

Boris Johnson (left), then mayor of London, and Prime Minister David Cameron in Trafalgar Square (London), August 29, 2012. WILL OLIVER / AFP

David Cameron awaits, feverishly, the response from Boris Johnson. The latter has not been a minister, but the mayor of London since 2008. Funny, controversial, fair-haired, he likes cameras. He's also his big rival, the only politician to enjoy a higher popularity rating. to hers. A notorious Eurosceptic, he made a name for himself in journalism – his first profession – by taking a lot of liberties with reality and by shooting at the European Commission, from the time he was correspondent for the Daily Telegraph in Brussels in the early 1990s.

Article reserved for our subscribers Read also The first time "Le Monde" wrote "Brexit"

Finally, the text falls: Mr. Johnson explains to Mr. Cameron that he will no longer be able to look in the mirror if he supports the "Remain". He will therefore campaign against him, side with "Leave", hitherto embodied by the hard right and Nigel Farage. "It has nothing to do with you, it's a matter of doing what I have to do", Mr. Johnson texts.

Really ? The two men know each other by heart, they followed the same privileged course, Eton then Oxford, the university where Johnson was already a figure in the mid-1980s. "Dave" was less charismatic but better student, and he grilled him priority when entering Downing Street in 2010, before turning 44.

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