Boris Johnson got perhaps a mandate, certainly the room to maneuver. Now what?
What Happened – and Why?
Few called the sweeping win the Conservatives garnered in the UK last week. I certainly did not. A lot of time and calories will be burned figuring out why this. Remember that Brexit is not that popular in the UK. Most analysts say two things were at work. One, people are exhausted of the uncertainty; at least this gets things moving. Two, Labor had terrible leadership and a muddled message. The best thing to come out of all this is a change in leadership. Both Labor and the Liberal Democrats sacked their leaders.
Now What Happens?
So, it seems that the UK will be out of the European Union quite soon. But, there might be a surprise or two yet to come. Before the election, many of Johnson’s own party members fought the No Deal approach. The opening session of parliament will be interesting, to say the least.
What might come from all that? For starters, the EU will have to decide how it wants to proceed. This withdrawal will hurt both sides. Still, one could make the case for the EU to extract a bit more of a price for the UK’s decision to withdraw.
Certainly, there will be pain, if it is a No Deal withdrawal. I would expect little flexibility or generosity in this. You want it bad? You want No Deal? Wish granted. Real economic pain is coming. The resulting downturn and uncertainty will have an effect. A lot of business will be leaving London for more stable and integrated environs.
The Scottish Nationalist Party may well push for another independence referendum. They note that the conditions for the last vote no longer exist. If they have such a referendum, I would not bet against independence.
Fraught with even more tension will be the situation in Northern Ireland. This has been a sticking point all along, how to work borders, etc. Violence could resurge. Catholics could make the case its time to join Ireland. Their opposition would make it clear they would fight first. It is difficult to see how things go well in Northern Island no matter how things progress. Might the “United” in United Kingdom soon stand for England and Wales only? Unlikely, but not at all impossible.
Two Peas in a Pod?
Much has been made about the similarities between Johnson and Trump. There is something to that, but it is not an exact match. One area where there is a match is that Johnson is without moral or intellectual frameworks. He is an opportunist. No more, no less. Where he might take the UK is a mystery. In that, he is much like Trump.
Beyond that, making too much of a comparison between the UK and the US seems to me a bit of an overreach. Some have rushed to conclude that this is a warning shot to the Democrats to stay close to the center. That may not be bad advice, all in all, but doing so because of the lesson offered by the UK is a stretch. It could even be a stretch of convenience. This might be done to make a point using data that is connectable only at the thinnest levels.
Why Should We Care?
For a lot of reasons. The UK is our one of our closet historical allies. How they fare is important to us. Also, a messy divorce that hurts both the UK and the EU hurts two of our trading partners. This means both are less able to be robust traders, buying what Americans sell.
Johnson’s victory is at least peripherally encouraging for other right-wing nationalists around the world. That is not good news for any thinking person. Last but not least, all this makes Western Europe weaker. That makes Russia stronger, which makes Eastern Europe justifiably nervous. None of these augers well for people, places, and things we care about.
I wonder if the Queen is beginning to wonder if she should have taken the retirement option a year or so ago? Even her job is not going to be fun in the months ahead.
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