17 | AGO | 2019
It is time to start ruling and end demagogy for Boris Johnson
Britain's new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, delivers a speech outside Downing Street, in London, Britain - Photo: Hannah McKay/REUTERS

It is time to start ruling and end demagogy for Boris Johnson

26/07/2019
15:38
Gabriel Moyssen
Mexico City
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It is time to start ruling and end the demagogy for Boris Johnson as his administration is facing immediate challenges that will demand the best efforts from the populist Conservative leader

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Finally installed in Downing Street as the new British Prime Minister, crowning a controversial political career, it is time to start ruling and end the demagogy for Boris Johnson as his administration is facing immediate challenges that will demand the best efforts from the populist Conservative leader.
 

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It is no secret that the most urgent challenge for the United Kingdom and Johnson is Brexit, the complicated and risky separation process from the European Union that the new premier has promised to achieve—“no ifs or buts”—on October 31.

However, he has not proposed any significant initiative to break the current deadlock, after his own Tory majority in Parliament rejected three times the plan negotiated last year in Strasbourg with the EU for an orderly divorce by his ill-fated predecessor, Theresa May.
 

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Johnson has stated he is determined to reopen the agreement and strip sections—like immigration and labor mobility,—that the remaining 27 EU member states have declared non-negotiable.

The chances of an unregulated departure, the so-called “no deal,” he insisted, are a “million-to-one” against; he doubled down on Wednesday after being sworn in Buckingham Palace, stressing that “we will do a new deal, a better deal [...] the people who bet against Britain are going to lose their shirts.”

Despite his optimistic message, at the same time with Johnson’s election announcement in London on Tuesday, Frans Timmermans, the European Commission’s first Vice-President, reiterated in Brussels that the EU would not renegotiate the deal.

Speaking to reporters, Timmermans said “he took a long time deciding whether he was for or against Brexit and now his position is clear. I think the position of the EU is also clear: the UK reached an agreement with the European Union and the European Union will stick with that agreement. We will hear what the new prime minister has to say when he comes to Brussels.”

Lithuania’s European Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis summarized the bloc’s skeptical position, remarking that politicians as Johnson are undermining democracy with “cheap promises, simplified visions, blatantly evident incorrect statements.”

In a blog post, Andriukaitis added: “Can democracy survive this type of politics? My take is that democracy chooses only those principles that derive from it, defend it and legitimize it. The ones that stem from ‘fake’ facts are killing it.”

Elected by 92,153 Conservative Party members—less than 2% of the British population—over his rival, former foreign affairs secretary Jeremy Hunt, Johnson has no leverage for a renegotiation with the EU.

Despite the relevance of London’s financial markets, the 3.5 million Europeans in the UK who are hoping to be allowed to stay and the reliance of Ireland’s foreign trade on British transit routes and portsTory extremist Priti Patel, new home secretary, affirmed in 2018 that Ireland could face worse food shortages than Britain if there is a no-deal,—a recession is looming over the country at the wrong time.
 

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Lost momentum

According to Britain’s National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR), UK economy appears to have lost anysignificant momentum” given the “chronic” uncertainty facing business due to Brexit and slowing international growth.

The NIESR considers there is around a one-in-four chance that the economy will have contracted by 0.1% from April to June and will also do so in the following three months. It also puts the likelihood of a no-deal exit from the EU at 40%.

Even if such a no-deal departure could be done in an orderly way, it would still snuff out any growth next year and send inflation over 4%. “There is a significant risk that the economy is already in a technical recession,” it said in a report. 

The outlook beyond October 31, when the UK is due to have left the EU, is “very murky” with the possibility of a “severe downturn” if there is a disorderly no-deal exit, with the pound crashing to be worth around USD $1.10.

If a no-deal is avoided, believes the NIESR, the economy is predicted to grow in both 2019 and 2020 by 1%; yet if there is a crash-out from the EU, GDP growth is forecast to be zero next year, with interest rates rising from 0.75% to 1.75%.
 

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Used to playing fast and loose with the facts as his probable alter ego, United States President Donald Trump, the flamboyant Johnson cannot expect much from Washington these days.

Contrary to his reported plans to reach a bilateral trade deal that would take effect as soon as the UK leaves the EU, former International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, sacked along with Hunt and other cabinet members on Wednesday, warned that the move would be in “breach of European law.”

We can’t negotiate anything with the U.S. until after we have left the EU”, Fox told the BBC on Monday. 

Sources close to Johnson suggested that the plan was to strike a “limiteddeal in just one area of goods. Nevertheless, Fox, who campaigned for Brexit alongside Johnson, dismissed this, saying any deal would probably take years to pass through the U.S. Congress.

“That will take time, and you have got the added complication, just remember, we are now getting very close to the American pre-election year where it is quite hard to get things through Congress, so even if you negotiate them quickly, you wouldn’t be able to ratify them,” he said.

Last month Fox also dismissed Johnson’s claim that the UK could use an international trading rule called “GATT 24” to keep trading with the EU on zero tariffs in the event of an unregulated Brexit.

“It is important that public debate on this topic is conducted on the basis of fact rather than supposition,” Fox expressed.

In addition, Johnson lacks a solid majority in the House of Commons. If just three Tories were to bolt and join the radicals in the Brexit Party or if three repentant members were to join the Remainers Liberal Democrats, that majority would vanish instantly.

Johnson also relies on the votes of ten Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) members of Parliament from Northern Ireland, in order to have a working majority.

Against this background, it would be better for the UK an end to the similarities between its new prime minister and Trump.

Outside Europe, Johnson’s main challenge is the current tensions with Tehran, after British Royal Marines raided on July 4 the Iranian-flagged oil tanker Grace-1 off the coast of Gibraltar.

The British say they captured the ship because they suspected it was heading to Syria in an attempt to circumvent EU sanctions against the Arab country government.

Last week, however, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard seized in retaliation a British-flagged tanker, Stena Impero, in the Strait of Hormuz.

Given the manifest hostility between Washington and Iran, as well as the danger of a major war in the Middle East disrupting global oil trade and the economy, this particular dispute means adding fuel to the fire.

Fortunately, Johnson has stated that “diplomacy must be the best way forward,” and said “the answer is no,” regarding the possibility of his government’s support for military action in the Persian Gulf.
 

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Editing by Sofía Danis
More by Gabriel Moyssen

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