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July 26, 2019

Boris Pledges Leadership on Brexit

But that doesn’t mean British politics aren’t even messier than America’s.

A conservative political candidate assumes the highest office in the country with minimal experience, an unpredictable personality, wild hair, and a promise to upend the status quo.

Thinking Donald Trump?

Actually, it’s Boris Johnson and he’s taking the reins of power as Britain’s new prime minister.

Like Donald Trump, Boris Johnson faced naysayers who thought his push to become Britain’s next prime minister was a publicity stunt. Like his American counterpart, he has plenty of critics who’ve already predicted his imminent failure. This includes the British media who aren’t bothering to give him a honeymoon period. They’ve already brandished him a clown and a con man. And, like Trump, Johnson enjoys a mandate from a significant block of British voters pinning all of their Brexit hopes on the former journalist and London mayor.

As for President Trump, he seems to enjoy the comparison to Johnson. Trump recently told The Daily Mail, “We have a really good man who’s going to be the prime minister of the UK now. … He’s tough and he’s smart. They call him Britain’s Trump.” The president added, “He’ll get it done. Boris is good. He’s going to do a good job.” Trump’s praise for Johnson stands in stark contrast to his biting criticism of outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May, who Trump blamed for failing to see Brexit through.

Perhaps the most important similarity between Johnson and Trump is that Johnson is coming into a divided government, and with a slim majority in Parliament making his bold vision an uncertainty.

Madeleine Kearns writes at National Review, “Winning the Tory-party leadership contest was the easy part. Johnson has inherited an almost fatally precarious parliamentary majority. Out of 639 voting MPs, the government needs 320 to secure a majority. There are currently 312 conservatives, plus ten MPs from the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) who are lending their support. In other words, the government has a working majority of just two MPs.”

But there’s another option for Johnson and Brexit supporters: call a quick election before October 31, the date Johnson says Britain will exit the European Union with or without concessions from the EU Parliament.

However, Kearns adds, “With the competition of the Brexit party and the revived Liberal Democrats, this could seriously backfire for a Johnson government. Yet some think it is in his best interests to call one sooner rather than later. If it’s going to happen, better for him to lead the way.” But leading the way is a tall order for Johnson. Nigel Farage, Brexit’s leader, reminded Brits on Twitter that “Theresa May promised us 108 times that she would deliver Brexit,” adding, “Can we trust him to deliver?”

Were Johnson to call the election, his best bet might be to set up a showdown between those who favor Brexit and the pro-Remain faction. Victoria Friedman at Breitbart suggests that “such an electoral pact would be where the two parties would agree to not field candidates in certain constituencies to prevent splitting the vote and allowing either the Tories or Brexit Party to defeating a pro-Remain party like Labour or the Liberal Democrats.”

But Brexit isn’t Johnson’s only challenge. He’s also inheriting some other problems left unsolved by his predecessor. The Wall Street Journal editorial board reminds us, “To the extent he can stimulate stronger economic growth he can better position the U.K. to weather whatever Brexit fallout comes. A modest tax reform for individuals and a proposal to reduce the stamp duty on property transactions both point in the right direction. He needs to act quickly.”

There’s no doubt that Johnson’s plate will be full, but will voters really care all that much about tax reform if Brexit fails again?

Aubrey Allegretti notes at Sky News, “For those who fear his time in office will be defined by Brexit, Mr. Johnson sought to reassure — talking up pledges like increasing the number of police on the streets, a new plan for social care, schools and the environment.”

Maybe. But Boris Johnson’s tenure as prime minister will ultimately be judged on Brexit, much as Donald Trump’s legacy will be forever be attached to the yet-to-be-constructed wall on the southern border.

On October 31, we’ll find out if Johnson is the real deal.

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