(Bloomberg) -- Boris Johnson heads to New York on Sunday for his first United Nations General Assembly as prime minister. But even on the other side of the Atlantic, he won’t be able to escape Brexit.
According to a statement from Johnson, his two-day schedule will see him “raising three crucial issues” -- the crisis in the Middle East, climate change, and “how post-Brexit Britain will be a better place to invest in and live in.”
The question he has to tackle first, and the one that is likely to dominate his trip, is whether and how he can get Britain to a “post-Brexit” point. To that end, his office is setting up a series of meetings with other Europeans. Those confirmed include Germany’s Angela Merkel, France’s Emmanuel Macron, Ireland’s Leo Varadkar and EU President Donald Tusk. He’ll meet Donald Trump on Tuesday.
Johnson’s agenda could also be overshadowed by a ruling due from the U.K.’s Supreme Court, on whether he broke the law when he suspended Parliament. The ruling is due next week.
U.K. Government Warns of ‘Minefield’ as Court Nears Ruling
Even if the court rules in his favor, the hearings this past week have been the latest example of how Johnson’s administration has run into difficulty.
The prime minister took office at the end of July, with a mandate to get Britain out of the European Union by Oct. 31, “do or die.” August saw him enjoying the job, and getting on well with Trump at a Group of Seven summit in Biarritz, France.
But the last three weeks have found Johnson at the mercy of the same forces that brought down his predecessor, Theresa May: an unruly Parliament that can’t agree on Brexit, and a united front of EU leaders determined to protect what they see as their interests.
Johnson’s attempt to get his way with both by dialing up threats has so far been unsuccessful. Members of Parliament from his own Conservative Party rebelled to pass a law that aims to force him to seek a delay to Brexit unless he can get a deal. His plan to suspend Parliament backfired, spurring MPs into action, and his threat that they would be expelled from the Tories was ignored. Instead, Johnson found himself far short of a majority.
He and his ministers insist they won’t seek a Brexit delay, but their week in the Supreme Court has been a reminder that even prime ministers have to obey the law.
Why Johnson’s Brexit Path Can’t Avoid Irish Border: QuickTake
Talks with the EU have also been difficult. The issue remains the question of reconciling Britain’s three stated aims: To change regulations away from Europeans and strike independent trade deals; not to have a border between Northern Ireland, which is in the U.K., and Ireland; and not to have a border between the U.K. mainland and Northern Ireland.
While Johnson said Thursday that there had been “some progress,” Ireland’s foreign minister, Simon Coveney, replied Friday that “we need to be honest with people and say we’re not close to that deal right now.”
Still, after meeting EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier on Friday, U.K. Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay said the two sides were “moving forward with momentum.”
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