Boris Johnson, Member of Parliament representing Uxbridge and South Ruislip, has been elected as the new Conservative Party leader after winning comfortably by a margin of 45,497 votes against rival Jeremy Hunt. As a result, Johnson will now be taking the reins of the U.K. as its prime minister and will oversee the country’s divorce from the European Union (EU), which is expected to materialize in October of this year.
In many ways, Johnson has attracted comparisons to U.S. President Donald Trump and for good reasons. Apart from the bombastic speeches, a general disdain towards immigrants from the developing world, and an impossible-to-ignore physical likeness, the two also seem to vociferously undermine the spirit of the EU – a trait that will have a lasting impact on the future of the U.K.
In the context of Brexit, Johnson has always been in the thick of things. He was a central figure in raising concern about the U.K.’s affiliation with the EU, terming it as unwanted and harmful to the interests of the country, and pushing for a public referendum on the U.K.’s future in the EU. However, Johnson was quick to decline running for the Conservative party’s leadership election post-referendum, which surprised many.
After his victory in the party leadership elections on July 23, Johnson addressed the media and party members in high spirits, professing faith in the party being able to deliver Brexit by October 31. “We are going to take advantage of all the opportunities that it will bring in a new spirit of can do. And we are once again going to believe in ourselves and what we are going to achieve,” he said.
Johnson believes that he can bring the EU to the negotiation table – something that his predecessor Theresa May repeatedly failed to do as the EU continued to stand firm on its divorce deal conditions. But unlike May, Johnson has categorically stated that the U.K. will leave the EU by October 31, and that includes leaving without a deal.
With an expected stalemate in negotiations, it would take a miracle for Johnson to put together a deal that is acceptable to the EU while also placating the U.K. Parliament. The EU has staunchly held its ground on the deal, stating that there will be no room for new negotiations, and the U.K. Parliament rejected the EU deal three times under Theresa May.
Meanwhile, trade pundits have warned that a no-deal Brexit could have disastrous consequences for the U.K.’s economy. The value of the pound sterling continued to slide against the U.S. dollar; registering a two-year low of $1.2450 per pound.
Germany, the U.K.’s largest trading partner, has seen a 2.3 percent decline in exports to the U.K. between January and May this year, when compared to the same time period in 2018. Exports from the U.K. to Germany fell nearly three times as hard, recording a 6.1 percent decrease in the same period. The primary reason for this debacle is the uncertainty surrounding the U.K. leaving the EU.
If the U.K. leaves the EU without a deal, it would be a huge setback to the trade systems in place, as the country will be pushed from being an integrated EU country to a country with zero-trading privileges with the EU. Border customs will be hit the most, as freight that moves between the EU and the U.K. will be subject to extensive checks at the borders, leading to long queues that several market experts feel would be too much to handle – especially since it has been revealed that the U.K. is ill-prepared to face a no-deal Brexit later this year.
Most of the emergency measures that were frantically put in place at the beginning of this year to lessen the impact of Brexit have been rolled back, with no decision on their status for October. At the very least, Johnson would have to push for such contingency plans that will help relieve the potential of a logistical nightmare.
The U.K. is at the crossroads of an event that can spectacularly change its position as a global superpower, a situation not seen often since World War II. And just like Churchill in the 1940s, Johnson’s legacy will be determined by how he maneuvers the U.K. through this elaborate mess called Brexit.