With his landslide victory inthe Conservative Party’s leadership election and a royal handshake with Queen Elizabeth II last week, Boris Johnson took over 10, Downing Street, London asthe United Kingdom’s latest British Prime Minister. Since his ascension last week, Johnson, dubbed by some as the “British Trump,” has ‘turbo-charged’ the engine of the sluggish Brexit process, threatening to leave the European Union [EU] without a deal if necessary.
Though his enthusiasm is infectious, it remains to be seen how he would wade through the troubled waters that drowned two of his predecessors – David Cameron and Theresa May. Cameron threw in the towel in 2016 when the result of the British referendum showed that the people narrowly voted to exit from the EU. Though Cameron organised the referendum, he campaigned against Brexit but lost. Theresa May, who also voted against Brexit, succeeded Cameron and worked hard to negotiate a deal with EU before the exit, to no avail.
Mrs. May suffered a series of catastrophic defeats when Members of the House of Commons voted three times earlier this year to reject the deals she negotiated with Brussels. Though she contemplated a fourth vote, the certainty of another defeat forced her to throw in the towel and she instead called for aTory leadership election.
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In his first speech as Prime Minister, Boris Johnson pleased hard-line Brexiteers in the UK by asserting that the country would pass through the exit fire without being burnt. He said, “The doubters, the doomsters, the gloomsters – they are going to get it wrong again. The people who bet against Britain are going to lose their shirts, because we are going to restore trust in our democracy and we are going to fulfil the repeated promises of Parliament to the people and come out of the EU on October 31.No ifs or buts. And we will do a new deal, a better deal that will maximise the opportunities of Brexit while allowing us to develop a new and exciting partnership with the rest of Europe, based on free trade and mutual support…”
Within hours of his ascension he rejigged the Cabinet, booted out nay-sayers and brought inhard-line Brexiteers into key positions.How he will deliver on a new Brexit deal with EU different from May’s, remains to be seen because EU leaders repeatedly said there can be no renegotiation.The Withdrawal Agreement negotiated by Theresa Mayspelt out the principles of UK’s exit from EU. One of the major sticking points for Brexiteers is what happens to the border between UK and Ireland, the only land border between the two after Brexit. Mrs May’s deal called for a “backstop” solution to the border issue, which is opposed by hard-line Brexiteers.
Johnson’s determination to stick to the October 31 deadline for Britain to exit the EU with or without a deal has already created panic among investors and business owners.Analysts and businessmen fear that a no-deal Brexit could lead to a year-long recession in the UK, which in turn could causedeep division in the UK across all social strata. On the other hand, the opposition Labour Party could hold out for a no confidence vote in order to trigger another general election, hoping to oust the deeply divided Tories at the polls and possibly hold a second Brexit referendum. Brexit has opened the biggest gulf within the Conservative Partyin many decades. The divisive Boris Johnson could worsen this split in the months ahead.
Beyond the Brexit related challenges, the new Prime Minister would need to tackle socio-economic challenges like the clamour for a heavy tax cut, housing shortfall, crime on the streets of London, dealing with questions over access to health and education,and UK’s relationship with US President Donald Trump. Africa will also be looking out at the former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s steps to see if it has a new friend or not at 10, Downing Street.
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