So Boris Johnson has become Britain’s prime minister. He has been trying and scheming, scheming and trying including undermining David Cameron. A ‘remainer’ before, Johnson saw political capital in the ‘leave’ campaign, and in a sudden about turn became its face and leading campaigner. Always superb at the latter and having the inbuilt advantage of a clown’s rapport with his public, he is given credit (or blamed) for the ‘leave’ victory in the referendum. It certainly was a turnaround for when the then prime minister, David Cameron promised the referendum, no one believed Britain would vote to leave — a vote that has divided the union as both Northern Ireland and Scotland voted to remain.
Boris has promised brexit, deal or no-deal, by October 31. A no-deal brexit would hurt the EU but cause much more damage to the UK economy. Since Boris refuses to rule out prorogation of parliament to achieve his ends, parliament has voted to ensure parliament will continue to legislate by requiring it to consider a Northern Ireland bill every two weeks . In effect the Boris no-deal brexit bomb has been defused, at least for the time being.
Brexit itself and its economic cost remain. If its supporters like Nigel Farage thought trade with the US will recompense the losses, they are in for a surprise. As Trump’s ‘America first’ policy has made abundantly clear, the US will be a tough negotiator on any trade deal.
All that is later. The first problem Boris faces is one of uniting the parliamentary party and securing its support. Philip Hammond the Chancellor of the Exchequer (akin to Treasury Secretary) has resigned and the other most important job, that of Foreign Secretary is held by Jeremy Hunt his defeated rival. He has refused to quit and has turned down a demotion to defense secretary. Sajid Javid’s job as home secretary has been given to Priti Patel and Javid himself, a former banker, has been appointed to Hammond’s position as Chancellor of the Exchequer, the first ethnic minority person to hold such a high level post.
How Johnson will fare with Hunt’s supporters remains to be seen.
Dominic Raab receives the foreign porfolio with the additional title of First Secretary of State giving him the most senior rank in the cabinet after the prime minister. Raab’s father was Jewish although he himself was brought up in his mother’s Church of England faith. As a young man, he spent the summer of 1998 at Birzeit University in the West Bank near Ramallah working for one of the principal Palestinian negotiators of the Oslo Peace Accords. Will we see any progress with peace in Israel/Palestine?
At the end of the cabinet reshuffle, the startling fact is that Boris has fired over half of Theresa May”s cabinet. No room for bridge building, the new cabinet is exclusively ‘leavers’ or right-wingers or Boris supporters. Exactly how that unites is difficult to fathom. We now have to wait and see when the disgruntled former ministers or their supporters will decide to wield their knives. George Canning had the shortest term in office serving just 119 days, and Johnson’s October 31st brexit deadline is exactly 99 days from when he took office. Will he set a new record?
Meanwhile, Boris has his work cut out for him. Not just brexit but Iran is sitting on two British-flagged tankers. Does Britannia still rule the waves? Not bloody likely, to use a British colloquialism, or so it seems.