One of the first people to congratulate Boris Johnson on his party’s massive victory in the UK’s general election was US president Donald Trump. Further bolstering the close relationship he has developed with Johnson —so much so he even gave his private cell number to him — Trump reiterated his enthusiasm to get a trade deal done post-Brexit.
While people can be forgiven that it’s probably just business-as-usual between Trump and Johnson, the Tories’ win means that we are about to witness a strengthening of US-UK ties, and an economic-political bromance that hasn’t been seen since George W Bush and Tony Blair. (Although, it hasn’t always been this way).
Johnson’s Conservative party won the 2019 general election with 365 seats. This is way above the 326 seats needed in parliament to form a government. The large majority means, it’ll be a lot easier for Johnson to push through a Brexit deal as he doesn’t need support from other parties to secure a majority vote.
This also means that it’s unlikely we’re going to have another election for five years as the Conservatives now hold a safe position in power. Even though the UK had an election just two years ago, the main focus for it under Theresa May was to do what Johnson did — secure a sizeable majority so the party can push through decisions without worrying about finding external support within parliament.
Now Johnson is able to fully embrace and not worry about what people think about his relationship with Trump — a political figure that draws huge protests in London and beyond every time he sets foot on UK soil since he became president.
It’s Johnson and Trump’s Britain, now
Amid the race to the 2019 general election, Johnson knew he had to keep a publicly visible and political distance from him.
This manifested itself in the fact, for example, he:
While also co-ordinating with Trump on one of the most emotive issues when it comes to UK politics — the National Health Service (NHS).
All-in-all, creating the perfect environment to woo voters while also keeping any potentially vote-threatening behaviour at bay. As commentators say, he has shown an enormous amount of discipline to balance what needs to be done to secure and amplify power to reshape Britain, Brexit and beyond.
With canvassing and the election — we’re now going to experience the full force of the Johnson-Trump relationship for least five years that is likely to dramatically reshape the UK as Britain exits the European Union.
The first thing that we’ll see is how the trade deal transpires. The speed of the deal isn’t what matters — you can read about that here — it’s more of what’s on the table and what will be agreed.
Britain needs the US as a trading partner after it loses EU membership — after all, being part of the bloc gives more favourable and unified tariffs on exports and imports, funding, and immigration terms.
Analysts across the world are all chiming to the same tune that while some uncertainty has been eradicated, 2020 is still going to be tough.
“Until we get more clarity on the transition, this all means the start of 2020 will be an uncertain phase for the UK economy. For many firms, an abrupt end to the transition period – which would see the majority of the UK leave the single market and customs union – would be very similar to a ‘no-deal’ Brexit,” said ING analysts in a note Friday morning.
Trump and Johnson aren’t afraid of a hard Brexit
Trump has been heavily in favour of a hard Brexit — the UK leaving the EU without a deal in place and therefore leaving a gulf of regulation on everything from immigration to trade.
Johnson has also repeatedly said, before and after becoming prime minister, that he would be in favour of a hard Brexit and that he would rather be “dead in a ditch” than having another Brexit extension (even though the deadline was pushed back after that comment.)
“Even if an extension is ultimately agreed, there’s a clear risk this doesn’t happen before the EU’s June deadline. If that’s the case, then firms will likely allocate extra resources to contingency planning. Alongside weak capital spending, this could amplify the current fragility in the jobs market,” said ING.
“But if an extension can ultimately be agreed, a cloud of uncertainty would lift. If coupled with better global activity and an improved jobs backdrop, this would probably persuade the Bank of England to steer away from interest rate cuts next year.
“Either way, it’s worth remembering that it could still be some time before we get better clarity on the future relationship for specific industries. Investment will remain capped.”
So with Trump as a powerful ally and someone who is dangling a trade deal in front of the nation’s nose, Johnson could go all-in and pip for hard Brexit on the proviso it’ll help him secure an agreement with the US. There is no one else Johnson is as close to that would advance a bilateral trade deal in the same way.
The reshaping of Britain’s DNA
As detailed in a previous article, the UK is a unique and complex beast.
Its industries can be intertwined with taxpayer funding or hold a particular place of protection in the public’s eyes. The NHS is a prime example.
The trade deal is so significant because even if the NHS was stealth privatised — like giving a number of contracts, especially non-compete ones, to US pharmaceutical companies — it can radically reshape the beating heart of UK society. As some commentators have pointed out, he would have to break his NHS promises to get a trade deal through.
Furthermore, without being an EU member and Johnson being able to push through what he wants in terms of a trade deal, he could agree to trading terms that were vetoed under the bloc. As an example, the issue around chlorinated chicken became “symbolic of wider concerns about food safety, animal welfare, and environmental standards.”
There are many more industries at stake.
But as Johnson reshapes the nation in a post-Brexit Britain and the US under Trump’s administration being UK’s best bet in a major bilateral deal post-Brexit, it’s likely we’ll see a relationship develop in sonic speed — recrafting the nation in its wake.