Theresa May’s tenure as the British prime minister has come to a close. The mantle of leadership has been passed on to Boris Johnson. It is one thing to have long-aspired to reach high office, another thing entirely to feel the onerous weight of the office and the responsibility it bears.
The former mayor of London and foreign secretary has long craved to lead his nation, but he takes the reins at a time when it is a kingdom deeply divided between those who want to leave the European Union (EU), those who want to stay, and those who want to find a middle ground and reasonable accommodations with Brussels.
May’s tenure was accentuated by her failure to convince disgruntled Conservative party members of the benefits of an orderly withdrawal from 46 years’ membership of the EU. Johnson has convinced an overwhelming majority of party members with his all-or-nothing approach to Brexit, making sure the United Kingdom leaves the union on October 31.
The dangers of leading Britain out of the EU in a no-deal Brexit scenario are well catalogued. So too are EU27 commitments to the Withdrawal Agreement Bill that has been rejected three times by the House of Commons. There will be no further negotiation on that deal, and any potential wriggle room for Johnson will be in terms of the political agreement — separate to that finalised agreement. That is a reality Johnson must face and carefully weigh the consequences of leaving without a deal before embarking on a decisive course of action.
As a long-time observer of European politics, Johnson must be fully aware that moderation is always the prudent course. The Iran file sitting on Johnson’s desk demands urgent attention, and he must quickly decide on a course of action. The regime in Tehran cannot be allowed to commit state-sponsored piracy by commandeering tankers engaged in international maritime trade on long-established route of sea passage. Nor can it be allowed to continue its agenda of disrupting regional affairs.
Johnson too has pressing domestic matters in need of urgent address. The UK’s National Health Service is underfunded and overwhelmed, its public sector workers straining under increased workloads and a decade of pay stagnation, its railway franchises off the tracks, its local councils broke, its social benefit payment system a shambles, and youth engaged in drug and knife crimes. Those are issues the new premier must address urgently.