Boris Johnson’s Brexit: A fictional promise or the final hope for the future of Britain outside of the EU?

British Prime Prime Minister Boris Johnson/ Image: NewsThump

Not more than three weeks ago, Britain found itself amidst another political turmoil with the election of the Conservative Party leader, Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, as the new Prime Minister of the country. Boris Johnson is notorious for being a “people-pleaser” with his populist policies that often lack substantiations. Populism has been a political appeal used by politicians and thinkers since the history of politics itself. Its birth can be traced back to the origins of left-wing socialism and communism wherein the economically impoverished were pitted against the capitalists who were seemingly corrupting the foundations of our society. The rise in contemporary populism, however, especially the one embodied by Boris Johnson, has created a political wave of ill-formed policies and reactionary rhetoric designed to simply catch the public’s attention while doing little to solve the country’s problem. Johnson’s Brexit policies, unfortunately, ride this same wave. 

Johnson’s elections: a leader with almost no support in his Parliament 

Boris Johnson’s elections sparked an outrage amongst the British population mainly for two reasons: there was an encompassing zeitgeist against the Tory government’s approach towards Brexit and Johnson’s election as the Prime Minister was backed by less than 0.4 per cent of the electorate. The electorate in this case comprised solely of Conservative Party members, a vast majority of whom belonged to the older, white male demographic. This miserably failed to represent the reality of Britain’s population and resulted in a series of protests were the public took to the streets to demonstrate their losing faith in the Tory Party. The reason that Johnson’s Brexit bifurcated his support was that the members of the Conservative Party saw in him the hope of finally closing a Brexit that had been tainting Britain’s economy for over two years. The more leftist sections of the government, however, saw a hasty proposal that could potentially lead to severed economic ties with European countries along with a dilapidating foundation for human rights within the UK. Despite this outcry, however much the public might be against the Prime Minister and his increasingly problematic Cabinet, the outcome of the elections were hardly a surprise to those who were closely watching the Brexit negotiations. 

Johnson’s Brexit: A populist facade for a European peace?

An important policy component that set Johnson aside from his primary rival in the Conservative Party, Jeremy Hunt, was his headstrong promise for completing Brexit – deal or no deal – by the 31st of October. Although it was this policy that perhaps secured him his winning spot as the Prime Minister, it also earned him a substantial amount of backlash from the Labour Party. 

Furthermore, in his quest to close the Brexit deal in a possibly unachievable deadline, Johnson has also made promises to forego Theresa May’s withdrawal deal with the hopes of conjuring something better himself.[1] Since his Prime-Ministership, he has made several grand speeches and promises detailing a fictional plan on just how he will be carrying Britain out of Brexit. Johnson has claimed to use the massive £39 billion EU “divorce”[2] settlement as leverage whilst negotiating a new deal, asserting holding back this payment to the EU until a better deal has been formulated. Such claims can only placate the contentions around Brexit for so long. The truth of the matter is that the EU27 is extremely unlikely to be willing to renegotiate a deal with Johnson, a leader whom most of Europe views as an “opportunist populist.”[3]  In fact, according to Dr Robin Niblett, Director of Chatham House, Johnson really has only two options that he can avail: challenging the Parliament to back a no-deal Brexit or calling a general election to secure a mandate for that outcome. Both of these options, however, seem unlikely to bring the kind of Brexit that Johnson is looking for. 

Johnson’s policies: Dwindling support and a lack of direction

Image: BBC

Challenging the Parliament to win support for a no-deal Brexit is improbable in and on itself since Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party leader has made it very clear that the Labour Party would never support a no-deal Brexit. In fact, Corbyn has also refused to take part in a cross-party alliance in order to create a temporary coalition to extend the Brexit deadline and perhaps create more cohesive terms of departure. Corbyn has instead taken his party to campaign for a general election where the public can exercise their right to choose their next Prime Minister.  

Nigel Farage, the founder of the Brexit Party, on the other hand, has won support for a staunch Brexit almost Britain-wide except for in the largely pro-Remain areas of London and Scotland. This win was unprecedented since nowhere in Britain’s history has a newly established party won elections at such massive nation-wide scale. The victory of the Brexit Party in the late May elections stemmed from the general public sentiment that a Brexit absolutely needs to be finalized or Britain’s economy will keep jostling downwards. It was this mindset that Johnson tried to utilize in his Brexit policy proposals but still failed to win Farage’s support. Nigel Farage has gone on to say that Boris Johnson is someone who just “flips and flops” and “only says what the audience wants to hear.” 

This populist, reactionary attitude that Johnson seems to entail could be potentially dangerous whilst negotiating a Brexit deal. Having only a minuscule and dwindling support from his political peers and deep scepticism from the public, Johnson stands on very thin ice with his policies to drag Britain forward with a Brexit that he still hasn’t completely devised. 

[1]Ignore Boris Johnson’s bluster about Brexit. He wants a general election

[2]Boris Johnson threatens to hold back Brexit ‘divorce’ payment to force a deal

[3] Boris Johnson’s Plan Just Might Work

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Kootneeti Team

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Paakhi Bhatnagar

Paakhi Bhatnagar is a former Research Intern at The Kootneeti and a final year undergraduate student at King’s College London, reading International Relations.

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