Why this UK journalist fears the new prime minister 'could bring about the end of Britain'
Great Britain now has it's new prime minister in the person of Boris Johnson, a figure who has often been compared to President Donald Trump. While some, presumably, make the comparison as a compliment, others, quite pointedly, do not.
And in a recent op-ed for the New York Times written as Johnson was on the verge of being selected, British journalist James Butler warned that the new prime minister could bring the end of the nation.
The real danger lies not simply in the character of Johnson, who is personally as obnoxious, shifty, unprincipled, and bigoted as one might fear, but in the other British phenomenon that has also been compared to Trump: Brexit.
How could Britain crumble? All it would take is for Scotland and Northern Ireland to jump ship if the effort to break from the European Union looks headed for calamity, as it surely appears to be.
"In Scotland, rancor at the sense that the country’s vote counted for little and subsequent repeated bouts of parliamentary chaos have led to renewed calls for a second independence ballot," wrote Butler. "An independent Scotland may be conjured out of the chicanery of Mr. Johnson’s rule."
The situation in Northern Ireland is even thornier:
In Northern Ireland, Mr. Johnson is beholden to the Democratic Unionist Party, a hard-line Northern Irish Protestant party on which he will depend for a majority in Parliament. That severely curtails his room for maneuver as he attempts, one way or the other, to take Britain out of the European Union. The D.U.P. will not countenance separation from the rest of the United Kingdom — hence why the so-called backstop, effectively an insurance plan to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and its southern neighbor, fatally scuttled Theresa May’s thrice-rejected deal. It is hard to see how Mr. Johnson can extricate himself from this problem, whose protraction may have a decisive effect on the country’s internal politics. Calls for a United Ireland, encouraged by demographic change and the waning of unionist sentiment, appear to be gathering more support.
But Johnson, a former mayor of London, was a major advocate for Brexit and has built his political power on that campaign. Former Prime Minister Theresa May's failure to craft a successful Brexit doomed her leadership. There's no way for him to back out now, despite the massive risk it brings.
Butler also predicts that calling a snap election, though it might be tempting for Johnson, would risk handing over control of the country to the Labour Party's Jeremy Corbyn, a potentiality he's unlikely to gamble on.
"And the overall political situation has only worsened since Mrs. May’s resignation," wrote Butler. "The European Union — newly configured after parliamentary elections, with an incoming head of the commission who has emphatically ruled out reopening negotiations with Britain — is likely to be short on patience and good will."
Foreign leaders, Butler added, see Johnson as a "dangerous buffoon."
As frustration over the Brexit negotiations has grown, Johnson committed himself to negotiate a new deal to leave the European Union by the end of October or to pull out with any agreement. This scenario is regarded as one of the most unpredictable and economically risky plans, and the fallout could be ruinous. But it's hard to see how it could be avoided.
"Reality will prove unavoidable on Oct. 31, however Mr. Johnson bluffs," wrote Butler. "Predictions about Brexit generally assume too much stability in the status quo; Mr. Johnson’s slipperiness makes it harder still to predict. Tackling Britain’s deep divisions requires depth of character, conviction and principle, none of which its incoming prime minister has ever hinted at possessing."