New British prime minister has duty to avoid exiting EU without deal

The Yomiuri ShimbunNow that Boris Johnson has become the British prime minister, he must rethink his comments and deeds aimed simply at making him more popular with the public and instead adopt a more responsible approach to politics.

Johnson’s first objective should be to avoid Britain leaving the European Union without an agreement locked in place — the no-deal Brexit — and seek out a solution that widely reflects the will of the British people.

Johnson, a former British foreign secretary, has won the race to lead the ruling Conservative Party and was to be sworn in as prime minister.

A hard-line Brexiteer, Johnson claimed the withdrawal agreement reached between former Prime Minister Theresa May’s administration and the EU could leave Britain bound to a customs union with the bloc and also some of its regulations. Johnson insisted he would seek to renegotiate a new deal with the EU to restore “British sovereignty.”

The problem is that his plan is rather unrealistic. The EU is sticking fast to its position of not revising the withdrawal agreement.

The EU extended the departure deadline from the end of March to the end of October as a grace period for Britain to come up with plans to leave the bloc. However, finding points of agreement in the remaining three months will be difficult.

In his victory speech, Johnson said, “We are going to get Brexit done on October 31.” Johnson also indicated he was willing to take Britain out of the European Union without a deal, which would suddenly reintroduce tariffs on trade between them.

Johnson’s changing tune

A no-deal Brexit would trigger economic and social turmoil for both Britain and the EU. There are concerns this could even have a negative impact on the global economy. Johnson’s comments that fawn upon anti-EU sentiment are irresponsible.

Adopting more realistic policies will be crucial. It is essential that consideration be given to lawmakers who want Britain to remain in the EU and “soft Brexiteers” who prize Britain’s ties with the bloc, during the departure negotiation process and in debates in Parliament. Another extension of the Brexit deadline should be considered, too.

Strong calls for retaining close ties with the European Union have been made in Scotland. Movements seeking Scotland’s independence from Britain are being rekindled. Johnson’s new administration will be put to the test over how it plans to preserve the unity of Britain.

Nagging doubts remain over Johnson’s qualities as a politician.

When Johnson was the mayor of London, he hailed the importance of the EU single market to Britain’s economy and boasted that immigrants were contributing to British society. But during the 2016 national referendum on whether Britain should remain in the European Union, Johnson was a leading figure in the “leave” campaign and called for bringing immigration under control.

Opportunistic remarks and actions make it impossible to achieve political stability.

Mounting tensions with Iran over the seizure of a British-flagged oil tanker also is a pressing problem. Johnson will need to work closely with Germany, France and other relevant nations to deal with this issue.

Johnson has a close relationship with U.S. President Donald Trump, who has championed an “America first” approach. Close attention must be paid to the impact Britain-U.S. cooperation will have on the international order.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 25, 2019)Speech


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