How will the Boris Johnson demission affect the future of EU-UK relations?
What was the reaction of the EU leaders after Boris Johnson was fired as the UK Prime Minister?
What damage did the relations between the EU and UK suffer during Boris Johnson’s tenure?
The EU has taken a cautious approach in response to the expulsion of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson from the leadership of the country’s conservative party.
The hope of EU leaders after the Boris Johnson demission
EU leaders hope Boris Johnson’s demission from the UK Prime Minister’s office will provide a basis for negotiations with London over Northern Ireland and the Brexit agreement. On the other hand, they do not have a clear vision of future relations with the UK until Boris Johnson’s successor is appointed.
Guy Verhofstadt, a well-known Belgian member of the European Parliament, wrote on his Twitter in response to Boris Johnson’s dismissal: “Boris Johnson’s reign ends in disgrace, just like his friend Donald Trump. The end of an era of transatlantic populism? Let’s hope so. EU – UK relations suffered hugely with Johnson’s choice of Brexit. Things can only get better!” Guy Verhofstadt was the European Parliament’s Brexit coordinator. According to him, Boris Johnson’s policies on leaving the EU severely hit the relationship between the two sides. He believes that Brussels’s relations with London will improve after Boris Johnson is in power.
A new chapter in UK-EU relations
Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, also believes that the end of Boris Johnson’s term will mark a “new chapter” in relations with the UK. The French politician hoped that the EU’s relations with the UK would be ” more constructive and more respectful of commitments made” after Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The EU Commission has officially refused to comment on Boris Johnson’s demission from the leadership of the UK Conservative Party. At the same time, Brussels has stressed that political developments will not affect the will to resolve the dispute over the customs mechanism in Northern Ireland.
Tensions between the EU and Boris Johnson
The EU and the Republic of Ireland officials, who have been challenged for months on how to implement the Brexit agreement with the UK, expressed their happiness with the Boris Johnson demission and hoped they could solve the existing problems with the new prime minister taking office. Meanwhile, Bernd Lange, the chair of the European Parliament’s International Trade Committee (INTA), described Boris Johnson as a power-hungry man who constantly sought to boost his ego. He wrote: “Finally. It was Boris Johnson only about maintaining power and one’s ego. Staging + escalation instead of solution-oriented politics. Enough of the British theatre thunder. We need a fresh start. Relationships EU – UK & practical solutions for implementing the NI protocol.”
Damage to EU-UK relations during Johnson’s era
Following the increase in tension between the UK and the EU over the Brexit agreement, especially the customs border between the UK and Northern Ireland, Liz Truss said: “If the EU does not show the requisite flexibility to help solve those issues, then as a responsible government we would have no choice but to act.”
Micheal Martin, The Prime Minister of the Republic of Ireland, also considered Boris Johnson’s demission as an opportunity to resume relations with the UK. He added: “While Prime Minister Johnson and I engaged actively together, we didn’t always agree, and the relationship between our governments has been strained and challenged in recent times.” Micheal Martin saw Johnson’s departure as an opportunity to return to the true spirit of partnership and mutual respect needed to uphold the achievements of the Good Friday Agreement between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland is a part of the island of Ireland that did not join the Republic of Ireland at the time of Irish independence and is still under UK rule.
The EU is waiting to appoint Boris Johnson’s successor
The identity of Boris Johnson’s successor as the leader of the Conservative Party and head of the UK government can significantly impact the relations between Brussels and London. Suppose Boris Johnson’s close allies, such as Liz Truss, the current UK foreign secretary, win in the intra-party elections. In that case, tensions with the EU over the Northern Ireland arrangement will likely continue. On the other hand, if a politician like Ben Wallace, the current defence secretary, who was a supporter of the UK’s survival in the EU, wins, the possibility of improving relations between London and Brussels will increase.
In 2019, the current prime minister of the UK was able to bring an unprecedented victory in the parliamentary elections for the country’s conservative party in the past few decades. He also implemented the policy of leaving the EU, which most voters approved during the 2016 referendum. However, Boris Johnson’s decision to unilaterally revise the Brexit agreement and the arrangement envisaged in this agreement for the Northern Ireland border caused London’s relations with Brussels to become strained. The UK and the EU agreed upon the protocol related to Northern Ireland in the Brexit agreement. The UK’s unilateral review of this mechanism created much tension among the EU and the risk of a trade war between the EU and the UK.