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08/08/2019

Boris Johnson, ‘Britain Trump’

Boris Johnson, ‘Britain Trump’

Boris Johnson recently became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom by a majority vote of the Conservative Party, despite his spotty reputation. This has generated a lot of worry, as any poorly considered action on his part could endanger the EU and his premiership.

 

WHO IS THE NEW RESIDENT OF HOUSE DOWNING STREET?

Boris Johnson is of Turkish, French and Russian ancestry. His family members are Christian, Muslim and Jewish. He was born in New York, but now chants nationalist slogans in the UK. He is populist, but has now become the prime minister of a country that prides itself on democracy. He is known best for his anomalistic behavior.

He has compared Muslim women to letterboxes and bank robbers, a statement that would ruin most politicians careers, but failed to prevent him from becoming the leader of his country. His uncautious words likely haven’t destroyed him politically because nobody takes them seriously… he is still in some sense regarded as a journalist who likes to joke around.

He could, nonetheless, seriously endanger the United Kingdom.

 

SIMILARITIES BETWEEN JOHNSON AND TRUMP

Regardless of the physical and behavioral similarities of these two political superstars, such as insulting people and lying without apology, their most important similarities are political.

Trump joked about many important political issues to cover up for his lack of political experience before entering the White House, which is likely why he failed to enact many of his election promises, or paid a heavy price for them, such as exiting the JCPoA and the trade war with China.

Now that Johnson is prime minister, everything will change. He can no longer insult other countries wantonly as before, he can’t make such brash controversial statements about Brexit, or harmlessly joke around in front of the camera.

We will have to wait and see how taking the job changes Johnson to know if he will end up going the way of Trump, as these changes might not be immediately apparent.

The two are also similar in regard to foreign policy. Johnson has been in international journalism for many years and has a very disturbing background in foreign affairs. His interest in international politics is very high, despite his severe lack of knowledge on the topic, suggesting potentially dangerous changes in foreign policy could be on the way. Johnson will undoubtedly replace many British ambassadors, but he could also be poised to change the UK’s entire geopolitical orientation.

This could improve, or entirely upend Britain’s current status in the world… however, if he’s as much like Trump as people say, he is likely leading his country toward international disaster.

 

WHAT FATE AWAITS BREXIT AND THE JCPOA?

Theresa May tried to take an independent view of the US, presenting the UK as a European country close to Germany and France, but Johnson is another case. Johnson is ready to force Britain’s departure from the European Union even without a deal and, in this respect, is precisely the opposite of May.

The Labour Party will do its best to hold an early election and put forth a seasoned candidate to stand against Johnson and fight Brexit. If Johnson fails to accomplish Brexit, we will likely see an early election in the UK. Brexit is Johnson’s most important task; he has essentially gambled his political career on completing it.

The August G7 summit in France will be an important moment in for what’s left of the JCPoA. There, we will see if Johnson will lead Britain toward the United States’ position, or keep close to Germany and France; the latter is unfortunately rather unlikely.

The UK is not fully committed to the JCPoA, which could leave the nuclear deal in a crisis position. Iran will likely react strongly to any actions that threaten the deal, which is why Johnson’s next move could have incredibly negative consequences for Germany, France, Italy, and Greece, which all have economic ties to Iran.

 

OIL TANKER CRISIS: JOHNSON’S FIRST MISSION

While Johnson’s primary challenge is Brexit, his first test is handling the crisis between London and Tehran regarding the mutually seized oil tankers.

While Jeremy Hunt was still foreign minister, his efforts to build an international military force in the Persian Gulf increased tension between Iran and Britain, which suggests Johnson could unintentionally reduce hostilities by canceling the initiative.

Johnson can’t handle a non-Brexit crisis at such an early point, which will likely push him to him solving the issue as swiftly and with as little incident as possible.

If Brexit wasn’t a priority, Johnson might have played a long-term game with Iran aimed at a more strategic victory, but he has every reason to resolve the issue in a short time given the circumstances.

Iran will certainly not give in and has much more at stake than the UK – this makes it difficult for Johnson to negotiate, and may force him to accept a slight defeat.

 

IN WHAT DIRECTION WILL JOHNSON TAKE EUROPE?

The three most important issues for Britain today are Brexit, reconciling with Trump’s viewpoints and the Middle East crisis. Johnson will likely not allow his foreign minister to handle the situation, as he wants to resolve the issues himself. However, any mistake on his part in handling such major issues could spell danger for all of Europe.

Johnson will approach these issues as follows:

  • First – a hard Brexit, with or without a deal
  • Second – moving closer to the US economically
  • Third – moving closer to Trump’s foreign policy outlook

Johnson’s plans will be based on Brexit and pushing the country to be less reliant on Europe economically, as well as for its security plans in the Middle East.

Europe considers Britain to be one of its own, despite the country leaving the EU. London’s proximity to Washington and new distance from Europe will therefore have negative consequences for the rest of the EU.

Europe could very well lose a powerful economic and, more importantly, diplomatic partner now that Johnson has taken power. Britain has always played a mediating role between Germany and France, and its absence could endanger EU policy making. In this sense, Johnson becoming prime minister could endanger the future of the EU altogether.

 

 
Mani Mehrabi
Senior international affairs analyst, Faculty member at the Think tank of International Relations (Tehran, Iran)

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