Boris Johnson is the new leader of British Conservatives and prime minister of the United Kingdom in place of Theresa May. He was voted by the 160 thousand party members and collected over 92 thousands preferences, against the 46 thousands of his challenger, former Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt, before receiving formal appointment by Queen Elizabeth as the new leader of the party that won the last political elections (2017).
Johnson is characterized by being one of the most distinctly Europhobic, controversial and charismatic politicians of England, arriving at 10 Downing Street at the most difficult time for post-war Britain. Rather than marking a turning point destined to bring about a rupture in the talks with the European Union, Johnson’s rise is the direct consequence of the impasse in which the negotiation with Brussels ran aground, as well as the irreconcilable requests made by London to exit the EU. Until yesterday, the Brexit was propitiated or managed by British conservative leaders like David Cameron and Theresa May who did not really want to leave the continental block. But rather to get more advantageous conditions for a country that has always perceived itself different from its EU partners. Now, on the contrary, the rudder has ended up in the hands of a man who has made English Europhobia the very vehicle to seize power.
Johnson is direct expression of a ruling class marked by imperial nostalgia, linked to the cultural universe and to the economic interests inherited from the colonial experience, determined to keep dominated the UK periphery (such as Scotland and Norther Ireland) and willing to depict a united Europe as a new instrument of German oppression. It did not help that during negotiations the governments in Berlin and Paris have warned Theresa May to keep open the Irish border and to accept that in the event of hard Brexit Ulster would remain part of the European customs union, with a different tax regime from the rest of the kingdom.
A simply unacceptable scenario for the whole Anglo-Saxon political class that would lay the foundations for renouncing to Northern Ireland, for the first time since the seventeenth century. In addition, the proposal is a clear sign that Brexit talks can become a tool in the hands of the main European powers to undermine the British rival in a time of its blatant vulnerability. The divorce from the EU will say a lot about Johnson’s political future and his abilities as prime minister. The former mayor of London has assured the Euroskeptic wing of the conservative party of being ready for Brexit by October 31, even at cost of a no-deal scenario.
An eventually feared by many for its effects on British economy: according to sources inside the UK government, a hard Brexit would lead to recession, increase unemployment, produce a real estate market collapse and the depreciation of the GBP. As always in politics, the hardest part of the game will be played in the center: at stake there’s Johnson’s capacity to stand up as a Tory federator after having been the Brexiteer champion. Johnson will have to convince the pro-European faction of the party not to abandon him, if he doesn’t want to see his reign finish prematurely.