Is Prime Minister Boris Johnson the European Trump?
The prospect of Brexit, the referendum expected to separate the United Kingdom from the European Union on October 31, has turned into a political Rubik’s cube in the hands of newly elected Prime Minister Boris Johnson, a controversial leader who is often compared to United States President Donald Trump. The British PM was elected by his Conservative Party after Theresa May’s disastrous handling of Brexit negotiations, which have left the UK in a state of uncertainty. What can the good people of the UK expect from a Trump-like PM?
Even though PM Johnson has firmly indicated his intention of moving ahead with Brexit without a trade agreement with the EU, a dangerous prospect for the British economy, such statements have thus far been interpreted as being more bark than bite. PM Johnson, a one-time journalist and former Mayor of London, is quite familiar with sensationalism, but he also knows that the impact of a “hard Brexit” would deliver a major blow to the British economy.
Thus far, PM Johnson has tried to rescue one of the unpopular Brexit agreements previously presented by former PM May, but EU negotiators have laughed off this proposal because they know it is not going to work. Another strategy that PM Johnson has hinted at calls for indirectly running out the clock, which would involve dissolving the Parliament and holding general elections so that Brexit happens almost automatically; the problem with this idea is that it would likely anger voters in Scotland and Northern Ireland, thus motivating these two political divisions to separate from the UK and joining the EU. In Wales, farmers are also becoming frustrated with PM Johnson’s handling of Brexit, and they may also consider separating from the UK.
In mid-August, U.S. President Trump sent his national security adviser John Bolton to meet with PM Johnson, a visit that geopolitical analysts believe will include conversations about the scenario of a broken-up UK. It is safe to assume that PM Johnson will not like to be remembered as the PM whose tenure resulted in the separation of the UK, thus making the likelihood of a hard Brexit less likely.
The populism that pushed PM Johnson to the highest British office is something that he will never abandon, but his Brexit rhetoric may end up not being accompanied by corresponding actions. Similar to Trump’s border wall campaign promise, PM Johnson may just continue to present himself as a Brexit champion and blame his opponents for not getting things done, but he has better chances at holding on to power than Trump because he is smarter and more skilled in the geopolitical game. Recent adjustments in Brexit betting, which has become a global activity, suggest that a Withdrawal Agreement will likely be introduced by the end of the year, and PM Johnson will deploy every political trick to cling onto power or get reelected in the event of a soft Brexit.