United Kingdom: Can Prime Minister Boris deliver Brexit?
Our new prime minister, Boris Johnson, couldn’t be more different than his “buttoned-up” predecessor, said Hugo Gye in The Sun. When a crestfallen Theresa May announced her resignation in May, having thrice failed to get Parliament to approve the Brexit deal she negotiated with the European Union, ruling Conservative Party members were tasked with choosing the country’s next leader. The mop-haired former London mayor “rode a wave of optimism with his charismatic personality” to sweep aside nine rival candidates, eventually defeating his last standing challenger—Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt—by a 2-to-1 margin. After campaigning on promises to get Britain out of the EU by Oct. 31—trade deal or no trade deal—unite the country, and defeat opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn in the next general election, Johnson gave an ebullient victory speech peppered with jokes. “Some wag has already pointed out ‘deliver, unite, and defeat’ was not the best slogan because it spells out ‘DUD,’” he said. “But they forgot the final E, my friends, E for energize! And I say to all the doubters: DUDE, we are going to energize the country.”
God help us with this buffoon in charge, said Hannah Jane Parkinson in The Guardian. Johnson is “a racist”—he has referred to black people as “pickaninnies”—“an inveterate liar, a man who makes Machiavelli look misunderstood.” He made himself the face of the Vote Leave campaign during the 2016 Brexit referendum, falsely telling voters that quitting the EU would save Brits 350 million pounds ($440 million) a week. Then, when the referendum passed and the hard work of negotiating Britain’s exit began, he slunk away. Boris would never have been elected prime minister in a countrywide vote, but he is being forced upon us by Conservative Party members representing just “0.2 percent of the nation.”
Johnson faces an impossible task, said John Rentoul in Independent.co.uk. He will try to renegotiate May’s exit agreement with the EU, but “he won’t obtain significant changes.” Brussels can’t allow a hard border to go up between the Republic of Ireland, an EU member, and the U.K. province of Northern Ireland, and will insist on the “backstop”—a measure that keeps the U.K. closely tied to the EU and “is described as vassalage by the Brexit purists who sabotaged May’s deal.” And Johnson can’t simply yank the U.K. out of the bloc with no deal, because Parliament would block such an economically damaging move. Johnson would be humiliated, a general election would be called, and Corbyn might win.
Cynics wrote off Boris’ hero, Winston Churchill, too, said Steven Glover in the Daily Mail. When Churchill came to power in 1940, many in his Conservative Party thought him “flashy, unreliable, and lacking in judgment,” indeed, a “half-breed American” (Johnson and Churchill had U.S.-born mothers). Like Churchill, Johnson has also “craved the highest office in the land since he was a child.” Such ambition gives him a “mystical sense of personal destiny.” Maybe such unearned confidence is just what is needed to get Brexit done. ■