The plane that is from the site Politico Dubbed Hair Force One in reference to Boris Johnson’s hairstyle, it landed in New York on Monday night. This is Johnson’s first trip abroad in a long time, and his first visit to the White House as British Prime Minister is also included in the programme. He made a comfortable impression during the flight, he told the journalists who were there. He took off his jacket, rolled up his sleeves, and talked about everything. Boris Johnson flew in relief for the prime minister who had just handed over.
“Delivered” in this context means, at least from Boris Johnson’s point of view: he put together a slogan in concrete terms that his predecessor first used immediately after the Brexit referendum. At the Conservative Party conference in 2016, Theresa May spoke of “Global Britain,” at the time nothing more than an attempt to redefine the role of the United Kingdom after leaving the European Union.
Since then, the slogan has been used extensively, notably by the Johnson administration, which in March published a document called “Integrated Review”: a consideration of the kingdom’s position and what the future of “Global Britain” should look like. However, the term has always remained a meaningless PR mantra, and with complex documents with vague titles you won’t win any elections.
With deals, on the other hand, this is likely why the new security alliance between Australia, the USA and the Kingdom, known as Aukus, is being hailed as a success in London. And as a sort of perfect definition of what one imagines in Johnson’s clients and staff as “Global Britain” – a Great Britain that operates confidently on the global stage and joins other powers in the English-speaking world.
From a London perspective, the timing was good
In London they also point out the timing: French President Emmanuel Macron is subjecting everything to his re-election planned for the spring, so he is very busy with himself. In Germany, on the other hand, it may take some time before a new government is formed after the general elections, which is why there is no leadership in Europe, apart from the EU.
Johnson’s government sees itself in some sort of Aukus flyby, which also comes in time for Liz Truss, who is supposed to be the face of “global Britain”. On Monday, Truss, who was foreign minister for only a few days and who has now started a business trip with Johnson, visited the United Nations General Assembly. She said she wanted to present a “positive, internationally oriented, global Britain” that “is for everyone in the UK”.
However, what to do about what the Johnson government is offering is a matter of perspective. The deal caused a great deal of discomfort in Paris, and France felt abandoned by Australia and betrayed by the United States and the United Kingdom. Security and trade go hand in hand, which is why Australia is not buying French submarines for around €85 billion as originally planned. After French ambassadors left Washington and Canberra, this led France to cancel a meeting of defense ministers in London that had been scheduled for this week. In addition, Paris has threatened to suspend trade talks between the EU and Australia for the time being.
This will again be in the spirit of Johnson’s Brexit supporter. In their view, Aukus has the potential to upset the European Union, perhaps even split it up a bit. And if the French government were to go it alone to suspend talks with Australia, it could claim that the guilty French once again decided the fate of the EU and blocked a trade deal that benefits the EU.
No wonder, then, that in London Great Britain is said to have already achieved what Brussels is still working on: a trade agreement with Australia, even if its contribution to Britain’s economic output can be controlled. The fact that France has not withdrawn its ambassador from London and says that the British are only the “fifth wheel of the car” in every way creates a mixture of challenge and contentment in London.
But as great as the delight may be, the danger is that the deteriorating relationship between the European Union and Great Britain will become a problem for London. It is now likely that France’s interest in somehow accommodating the British in the difficult Brexit dispute over Northern Ireland has declined further.
Boris Johnson knows this, of course, and that is why at the beginning of his journey he emphasized how important France is to Great Britain as a partner, as is customary to him: “Our love for France is indelible,” Johnson said. One would have loved to be there when Emmanuel Macron heard Johnson’s words.
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