Expectations and challenges to newly elected UK Prime Minister

Thursday, 2019-07-25 16:18:43
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Newly elected leader of the Conservative Party Boris Johnson leaves Conservative Party HQ in London, after it was announced that he will become the next Prime Minister of the UK. (Photo: Getty)
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NDO – Former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has become the leader of the ruling Conservative Party and the new Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (UK). With a strong personality, Johnson is expected to break the current Brexit deadlock. However, in the context of the UK's deep internal disagreements, the new leader is facing a number of major challenges.

On July 23, Johnson was announced as the winner of the Conservative Party’s leadership race, making him both leader of the party, and the UK. In his address after the voting results were released, Johnson affirmed that he would pursue the Brexit plan (the UK leaving the European Union) and vowed to end the Brexit dilemma by October 31. He will also form a new cabinet in the next few days. Johnson always persevered his pro-Brexit stance while serving as the UK Foreign Secretary (2016-2018), and during the recent election campaign, he still upheld the Brexit spirit by promising to “make Brexit or die”. Therefore, the election of a politician with consistent support for Brexit as the new leader of the UK is hoped to bring new strength to the pro-Brexit faction, and some expect that Johnson’s solid stance will help break the current deadlock.

Despite high expectations, Johnson is also predicted to face many difficulties by assuming the “hot seat” of the UK at the moment. The immediate and biggest challenge for the new UK Prime Minister is how to reconcile the UK which has been in deep and prolonged divisions over the Brexit issue for the last few years. In his victory speech, Johnson pledged to help the UK reunite and look forward to the future, while affirming that he would make good use of every opportunity brought about by Brexit. However, the reconciliation of the current factions in the UK seems to be an “impossible mission” as the pro- and anti-Brexit factions are still “on par”. Just before the Conservative Party announced the election results, the UK’s finance minister Philip Hammond said he would resign, stressing that he would never agree with Johnson’s Brexit strategy. Meanwhile, Jo Swinson, leader of the opposition Liberal Democrats, announced that she would do anything to prevent Brexit.

Concerning the Brexit issue, the new leader of the UK also faces challenges from the “unshakable” stance of the EU leaders. The recent tough statements from senior EU officials show that they will not be open for renegotiation of the Brexit terms, set out in a withdrawal agreement already agreed with the UK Government last year. European Council President Donald Tusk emphasised that the EU’s stance would not change, even if “some personnel decisions in London” might affect the Brexit process. He said the 27 remaining EU member countries had agreed that there would not be any change to the Brexit deal reached between the two sides in November 2018.

Meanwhile, another major challenge to the new UK Prime Minister is to revive the national economy, which has been operating under the “dark cloud” of Brexit during the recent past. On July 22, the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) stated that the UK economy may already be in a recession and is “vulnerable” as it heads towards the Brexit deadline on October 31, at a recession level of 25%.

With the big challenges mentioned above, despite numerous expectations on the newly elected UK Prime Minister, not many people believe that he will soon turn around the difficult situation in the UK at present. This is also the reason why the UK media recently gave precautious judges about Johnson’s future. The Financial Times said that hardly had a UK leader in peacetime faced many daunting situations waiting ahead like Johnson when he assumed the position. The next steps of the new UK leader will undoubtedly affect the fate of future generations of the “Foggy Land” and the current “health” of one of the leading European economies. However, many analysts still voiced their beliefs that Johnson would soon help take the Brexit process out of the current deadlock.