British steel: What the West and Ukraine expect from Boris Johnson?

Author : Georgiy Kuhaleyshvili

Source : 112 Ukraine

British conservatives give a chance for becoming Prime Minister to an ardent Euroskeptic, an erudite and eccentric politician, who is popular among conservative social movements
14:31, 19 June 2019

PA photos

June 18, the second and final round of the election of the Conservative Party new leader took place in the British Parliament. The winner will also take the post of Prime Minister of Great Britain. The British Prime Minister resigned as leader of the Tories on June 7 but will head the government until Parliament decides on a successor. Apparently, the next British prime minister will be ex-foreign minister and former mayor of London, Boris Johnson. Last week, 114 of the 313 conservative MPs from the House of Commons supported Johnson's candidacy. The gap with the main opponent, Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt is colossal: only 43 conservatives supported him. British conservatives give a chance to an ardent Euroskeptic, an erudite and eccentric politician, who is popular among conservative social movements - 54-year-old Johnson.

Former Mayor of London was supported by ex-Minister of Labor and Pensions Esther McVey, who refused to continue the fight for the post of leader of the Conservative Party. In her opinion, Johnson is an energetic leader who will be able to form a strong team and achieve a British exit from the EU by October 31. Johnson agreed to invest more in public services, as McVey had previously planned to do. Another candidate for the leadership of the Conservative Party, Interior Minister Said Javid, said that the MPs need the changes that they see in Johnson. The Minister of the Environment, Food and Agriculture, Michael Gove and even the head of British diplomacy Hunt expressed their willingness to work in Johnson's team. In the UK, the political crisis continues due to the fact that the Brexit process has stalled in the years of Theresa May. To break the Gordian knot of British and EU contradictions, the British Conservatives need a leader with steel will, ready to take radical steps for the sake of Brexit. Ukraine is closely following the change of power in Britain, which, along with the United States, is a conduit for the policy of anti-Russian sanctions and is in favor of restoring the territorial integrity of our country.

Unpleasant surprise for the European Union

The essence of the contradictions between Britain and the European Union lies in the fact that the British parliamentarians do not agree with the terms of the Brexit, negotiated by May with the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker. The agreement provides for a transitional period until the end of 2020, during which London must comply with European rules in the field of trade, social policy, make contributions to the EU treasury, without formally participating in the political decision-making process. The agreement does not clearly define the status of the British-Irish border after Brexit, which, under the terms of the Belfast Agreement, which put an end to the armed conflict between London and the separatists of Northern Ireland, must remain open. The Brexit Agreement, as it is, is a concern, as it can lead to fragmentation of Albion. At the time of the transition period, it is planned to maintain the British region of Northern Ireland in the EU Customs Union for the sake of openness of the border with the neighboring state of Ireland. Customs control may appear on the administrative border of Northern Ireland with other parts of the United Kingdom across the Irish Sea. Brussels has given London a reprieve until October 31 to resolve the Brexit issue and refuses to revise the terms of the unpopular agreement. Initially, the UK was supposed to withdraw from the EU in March. Johnson promised that Brexit would take place before October 31, with or without an agreement.

Related: Thanks to Boris Johnson's resignation, soft Brexit is now back on the table for Theresa May

Unlike Theresa May, Boris Johnson admits the possibility of implementing the hard Brexit scenario and withdrawing from the EU without an agreement. Johnson resigned as Foreign Minister due to disagreement with the terms of the May and Juncker deal. In his opinion, this agreement deprives the kingdom of the opportunity to develop free trade, including concluding preferential trade agreements with third countries, as well as the main benefits from leaving the European Union, including savings from the national budget. Johnson believes that the British government pays at least 350 million pounds a week to Brussels, which could be spent on hospitals. In 2017, the UK contribution to the EU budget amounted to 13 billion pounds. The country spends more money on the European budget than it receives in return: in 2017 the kingdom received 4.1 billion pounds from the European treasury.

Open source

Johnson plans to hold talks with the EU on a new agreement on Brexit if he becomes prime minister of Great Britain. In his opinion, it is advisable to preserve the freedom of movement between the United Kingdom and the European Union, to conclude an agreement on aviation communication, so that British citizens can fly to Europe using the services of low-cost air carriers. Johnson believes that after Brexit, Great Britain should conclude an agreement on a free trade zone with the EU, as Canada did in 2016. The European Union and Canada abolished duties on most of the goods. In February 2018, Johnson proposed the introduction of an electronic payment system for crossing the British-Irish border as an alternative to restoring customs control. A similar electronic payment system exists in London, where a fee is charged for crossing the border between the districts of Islington, Camden, Westminster. Despite the fact that this idea was met with criticism in the political circles of Great Britain, according to the MP from the North Irish Democratic Unionist Party Sammy Wilson, there is a virtual border between Northern Ireland and the Irish state. In the UK and Ireland, there are different rates of VAT, excise tax, which are collected without stopping and inspecting vehicles using the software at the border.

However, the likelihood of Johnson’s success in convincing European partners to renegotiate the Brexit agreement is low, given the skepticism about British politics in the EU. In Brussels, he is considered an outspoken populist and is placed on a par with Euro-skeptics, such as, for example, the leader of the French National Movement, Marin Le Pen. Former French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault argued that Johnson had been deceiving the British during the Brexit campaign and therefore could not be trusted. Johnson's views are not shared by President of the European Council Donald Tusk. In February 2019, he stated that those who actively advocated Brexit "have a separate place in hell," because they have not even developed an approximate plan for its implementation.

Johnson will have to negotiate with European Commission President Juncker, whose terms will expire in October. Juncker called Johnson’s statements that London transfers 350 million euros a week to Brussels a lie. In February 2019, the European Commission called on the British authorities to decide whether they would participate in the EU budget in 2019. According to the Financial Times, it was a question of deductions in the amount of 7.1 billion euros (6.3 billion euros). Based on these figures, the UK could conditionally deduct no more than £ 131.2 million per week to the EU budget. If Johnson is unable to agree on anything with officials from the European Union, then the UK will have a hard Brexit scenario with all the ensuing negative consequences for the economy.

Good man for America

Since the end of the Second World War, Washington and London have been developing strategic cooperation in the defense, technological and economic spheres, acting as a united front in the foreign policy arena, jointly carrying out the lion's share of military operations. Often, the US-British relationship is called special. But recently they have been deteriorating by leaps and bounds. The May government did not support the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal with Iran and the Paris agreement on climate protection. In July 2018, in an interview with The Sun, US President Donald Trump criticized the Brexit Theresa May’s plan, stating that she would bury the prospects for signing an agreement on a free trade zone between Britain and the United States. Part of the British society hostile perceived Trump's visit to the UK in early June of this year. In London, protests against the policies of the American president were held. The leader of the opposition Labor Party, Jeremy Corbyn, accused Trump of racism and interference in the internal affairs of the United Kingdom and refused to attend an official dinner with the American president. His example was followed by the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, Vince Cable.

Related: Boris Johnson resigns as British Foreign Secretary

It seems that the US authorities are interested in Johnson becoming the next British prime minister, and they see him as a reliable person. During a recent visit to the UK, US President Donald Trump said that Johnson would be an excellent leader of the Conservative Party who would do a good job. Trump and Johnson talked on the phone for 20 minutes on June 4, when the American president was in London. According to the newspaper Politico, earlier Trump invited Johnson to visit the United States, but he refrained from traveling because of the need to prepare for the election to the post of leader of the Conservative Party.

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Johnson is pragmatic about the United States and Trump. In 2015, being the mayor of London, he expressed doubt about the fact that Trump fits the presidency of the United States. In 2017, he visited the United States as Minister of Foreign Affairs of Great Britain and unsuccessfully tried to convince the American authorities to return to the conditions of a nuclear deal with Iran. Under current terms, the British politician is counting on Washington’s support in a difficult dialogue with Europe. Last July, Johnson welcomed Trump's visit to the UK and called him the closest and most influential friend of Great Britain. He expects to dilute Britain’s dependence on the European market and develop free trade with other regions of the world and therefore approves the signing of a free trade zone agreement with the United States.

Ukrainian issue

Despite the fact that the Euroskeptic Johnson has not the best reputation among the European partners of Ukraine, he is one of the conductors of anti-Russian sanctions in the West. In 2017, while serving as Minister of Foreign Affairs of the United Kingdom, Johnson said that there are no prerequisites for easing anti-Russian sanctions. In his publications in the British periodicals, he condemned the annexation of Crimea, the Russian aggression in Donbas.

In May 2018, Johnson opposed the construction of the Russian Nord Stream-2 gas pipeline, in support of the position of the United States and Ukraine. In his opinion, this gas pipeline will lead to increased dependence of European consumers of Russian natural gas and a split among EU member states. The former minister is in favor of preserving Euro-Atlantic unity as a tool to counter Russia's subversive activities. At the same time, Johnson is sensitive to reforms in Ukraine and believes that our government is not doing enough in this direction.

The British politician acts as a counterbalance to the supporters of Russia among the British skeptics. In the recent elections to the European Parliament, the majority of British voted in favor of the “Brexit Party” by Nigel Faraj, a supporter of Britain’s withdrawal from the EU without an agreement. In 2014, he spoke rather flatteringly about President Vladimir Putin after the annexation of Crimea. Faraj does not support the policy of anti-Russian sanctions. There are suspicions that he received funding from Russia. Johnson said he would not allow Faraj to increase his influence in the British political arena.

Johnson sees Russia as a threat to the security of Britain. In March 2018, he promised to introduce new anti-Russian sanctions if Russia's involvement in the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal the Novichok nerve agent in Salisbury is proved. Johnson condemns Russia's support for the Bashar Assad regime in Syria. In 2017, he canceled an official visit to Russia after the US bombing of a military airfield of Assad troops in response to the use of chemical weapons against the Syrian opposition.

Related: Boris Johnson met "London professor" linked to Kremlin, - The Guardian

Related: Boris Johnson to retain his post in new Britain’s government

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