By William J. Furney
Boris Johnson’s first appearance at the despatch box in parliament this week revealed a man with a fixation on other ebullient and equally flamboyant British statesmen, most notably war-time leader Winston Churchill, with his wild gestures, fruity language and tones rising and dipping and thrilling as though he was a one-man orchestra being conducted by an unseen agent.
Brexit champion Boris’ rise to the highest office in the United Kingdom this week sees the former journalist and two-term mayor of London fulfill a childhood ambition of becoming “world king”, although, sadly, for the newly minted prime minister who was born in New York (no wonder he has an affinity for Donald Trump), Britain no longer rules the waves and is in danger of losing its formidable global clout due to its apparent insistence on ditching the 28-member European Union and going it alone. It is even doubtful if Boris — real name Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson and known to his family and friends as Al — will be “king” of the UK for all that long.
The 55-year-old, who is in the process of divorcing his second wife, Marina Wheeler, with whom he has four children (and there may be more, outside of that relationship), is widely believed to now be campaigning hard for a general election, so that he can gain an actual mandate (Conservative Party aside) to tear up the UK’s membership with the European bloc and, if necessary, leave without any deals at all, thereby casting the four-nation country into entirely calamitous waters.
This is because wealthy Boris — who, among his other incomes, is paid almost £23,000 a month to write a weekly column in Britain’s Telegraph newspaper, and who is now shacked up with his 31-year-old, PR consultant girlfriend, Carrie Symonds — will be otherwise unable to get a no-deal proposal through parliament, and the former foreign secretary under newly departed prime minister Theresa May, who repeatedly failed to get politicians’ agreement for her Brexit plan, ending in her downfall, knows this all too well.
One of the big Brexit sticking points is what to do with the UK’s sole border with the EU, if the country does manage to extricate itself from the economically powerful grouping. That would be along the division between the two political parts of the tiny island of Ireland: North, which is part of the UK; and the Republic, which was integrated into Britain, for centuries, until a fierce uprising resulted in independence in 1937. And then there is the euphemistically named “Troubles”, or “Northern Ireland Conflict”, if you prefer the decades-long war between Catholics wanting a united Ireland and Protestants loyal to Britain and in which around 3,500 people died served without the niceties.
The Good Friday Agreement, forged in 1998, has, mostly, brought about peace in Northern Ireland, although Republican sentiments remain on simmer, and could boil up at any moment. There are real fears that a no-deal Brexit could spell chaos for both parts of Ireland — North and South, economic and political, and potentially reignite the warring factions in Northern Ireland. Some are talking again about the possibility of a united Ireland, and Nicola Sturgeon and her independence-minded Scotland is looking at all of this with great and renewed interest.
Strangely, then, since assuming office, Boris has not picked up the phone to his counterpart in Dublin, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. The 40-year-old, gay son of a doctor from India and his Irish wife is eagerly awaiting communications with No. 10, but so far the new British prime minister has been focused on talking to Trump and Justin Tudeau of Canada — in the hopes of generating all kinds of exciting trade and other deals — as well as Germany’s Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron of France.
Ireland — the Republic — is alarmed. Its foreign minister, Simon Coveney, said Boris’ declaration that the so-called Irish backstop designed to prevent a hard border in Ireland that could spark intra-nation conflict was “anti-democratic” and should be removed from the existing withdrawal agreement was “very unhelpful” to an island trying to keep itself together, and at peace.
“He seems to have made a deliberate decision to set Britain on a collision course with the European Union and with Ireland in relation to the Brexit negotiations,” Coveney said.
A day later, touring the northern England city of Manchester today, Boris retorted: “If we get rid of the backstop, whole and entire, then we are making a lot of progress.”
Boris helped bulldoze the Brexit vote over three years ago through based on what many now see as fabrications — millions going to the National Health Service instead of the EU, and other tall tales peddled from a big red bus. No one likes, or wants, a bull in a china shop.
- Title image courtesy of No. 10 Downing Street.