At least one European politician will lose Boris Johnson. When asked by US broadcaster CNN about the British Prime Minister’s resignation, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky responded that Johnson was a “true friend” of his country. Under his leadership, Great Britain was on the right side – on the side of Ukraine, which was attacked by Russia. In fact, from the start, London supported Kiev with a massive armaments fleet. Zelenskyi expressed the expectation that this aspect of British foreign policy would remain unchanged.
In Brussels, on the other hand, there are hopes of a change of direction in another area. They are, of course, very modest. Because only a few believe that London will be on a softer course rather than a confrontational one in the future Brexit turmoil.
On the one hand, the social democrats and greens in the EU parliament are already happy that after Johnson’s resignation they will have a chance to repair the tense relationship between Great Britain and the EU, so that the future prime minister will learn from his mistakes. Pioneer. Michel Barnier, the EU’s former chief Brexit negotiator, issued a similar statement. He wrote via Twitter that “a new page” could be opened in the relationship, one that would be more constructive and respectful.
The fight over the Northern Ireland protocol
On the other hand, even the biggest optimists know that a complete overhaul of Brexit policy is out of the question – and for many reasons. Domestically, an EU-friendly conservative party and government leader must oppose a powerful group of Brexit fans among the Tories. Ben Wallace, considered one of the favorites to succeed Johnson, who spoke in favor of the UK staying in the EU before the Brexit vote, may not be able to overcome this opposition within the party. Although opinion polls show that leaving the EU is more wrong than right, there is no sign of a majority in favor of rejoining the union. Even the opposition Labor Party is no longer striving for this.
Additionally, China is fractured in its relationship between the island and the continent, and rapid progress in relations is not in sight. Last week, parliament in London introduced changes to the so-called Northern Ireland Protocol, prompting sharp criticism in Brussels and other EU capitals. EU Vice President Maroz Cefcovic said there was “no legal or political justification” for Britain’s actions. Ireland and Germany also see a clear violation of international agreements.
Brexit and no end
The British government negotiated the Northern Ireland Protocol as part of its exit from the European Union, but later declared the deal unenforceable. The deal offers special customs rules for Northern Ireland to keep the border between the historically sensitive British province and the EU state of Ireland open – not least to prevent a re-ignition of the Northern Ireland conflict. However, the treaty created a customs border in the Irish Sea, separating Northern Ireland from the rest of the Kingdom. This caused delivery problems and great dissatisfaction in Great Britain.
Prime Minister Johnson is strongly motivated by his claim to prove that he is going through with Brexit against all odds. The next prime minister will not have that much pressure as he will have other challenges. These include the deteriorating economic situation in the kingdom, crumbling unity, social discontent and political strife. It remains to be seen how much energy the future British head of government will invest in easing his country’s relationship with the EU. (jar)