Many around the world, and definitely in Britain, might not be happy that Boris Johnson became the UK prime minister, and some of those would have preferred Jeremy Hunt to win the Conservative party leadership contest. Hunt would have been safe continuation of Theresa May rule — more of a traditional British ‘establishment’ policy internally and externally. But Johnson is considered a maverick who is keen on ‘tearing down rules’ and rewriting the established processes. That is actually what the UK, and the world, might need right now.
We all heard the same about US President Donald Trump when he was elected in 2016 — a man from outside the ‘establishment’ who had never assumed public office. Look at what he did to America and the world in a couple of years: Averting anticipated recession and heralding good economic indicators, renegotiating trade deals in favour of his country’s interests! He might be angering the leftists, liberals and moderate conservatives in America and elsewhere, but he is delivering on his promises — whether we agree with it or not.
Johnson is expected to do like that in a way, though many in Britain — even in his party — are warning him against it. But with Brexit at hand — UK is set to leave the EU by end of October, deal or no-deal as Johnson promised. With Iran trying to challenge Britain in an embarrassing way, UK might find itself in need of that ‘special relationship’ with US more than ever. An Anglo-American trade deal is vital for the UK now, and Johnson might not listen to advice that this treaty could be illegal.
As Trump has proved thus far much better to deal with than his predecessor for most Arab capitals, Johnson is set to be the same.
On Iran, Johnson might go an extra mile beyond the proposed “European patrol force” in the Gulf and seek US alliance to protect UK interests and guarantee safety of world maritime trade routes from Iranian threats. Drawing on his years of experience as the Mayor of London, Johnson is keen on cutting red-tape and simplifying regulations to minimise ‘state controls’ encouraging businesses and investments. Diluting the role of ‘nanny state’ would be encouraged in the UK.
Johnson will find support from Trump and his administration. Anything that moves UK away from EU bureaucratic traditions will be helped and encouraged by the US, even on facing Iran. Provided that he manages to stay in power, not facing a snap election before its due time in May 2022, Johnson would be good for UK and the world as well.
For the UK, he’ll deliver Brexit keeping his party’s promise to fulfil the mandate of 2016 referendum. In doing so he might well change the course of the economy from its current dwindling status. His anticipated economic policy of increased public spending, monetary easing, and cutting taxes (almost what Trump is doing in America) is set to vitalise economic activity. In addition, that will keep the currency (Pound Sterling) weak giving British exports advantage. Markets are also keeping an upward trend. Any strong stand by Johnson towards Iran would push oil prices high, benefiting energy companies and helping market indices to keep going up.
Some might argue that Boris Johnson’s closeness to Trump could make it difficult for UK to forge the much needed trade deals with other economic powers like China or Russia. But the Chinese would find Johnson a better partner outside the EU. Pragmatic as they are, China, Russia and likes would be keen to deal with a UK that’s less European even it’s becoming ‘more American’.
Middle East countries, especially GGC nations, would find it easier to do business with Johnson than with Theresa May or even her predecessor David Cameron. As Trump has proved thus far much better to deal with than his predecessor for most Arab capitals, Johnson is set to be the same.
British public in general might have not voted for Johnson to be prime minister, but he has the mandate of his party which won the general election. And if a snap election is to happen soon, he would most likely lead his party to win a majority in parliament.
Of course the UK is different from the US, and things might not go smoothly for Johnson. Brexit dilemma was compounded with a crisis with Iran over a British-flagged tanker seized by the Iranians off the Strait of Hormuz. Also the British economy is slowing down and political wrangling is set to make it absolutely difficult for Johnson to carry on what he is set out to do.
Regardless of the negative comments by media and suspicion among ‘traditionalists’, leaders like Johnson are needed to help the world get out of the ‘lull’ it has been going through since the end of cold war. The talk about ‘New World Order’ wouldn’t turn into action unless you have leaders like Trump, Johnson and the likes in power.
Dr Ahmed Mustafa is an Abu Dhabi-based journalist.