UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is a key participant in the Group of Seven summit in Biarritz on Saturday and Sunday, his first appearance on the international scene.
“We will see whether Boris Johnson (…) is able to show a different face to the world,” Bruno Maddox, director of the Institute for Government Studies, told AFP. Johnson was “disappointing” in that role in reference to his lapses.
Johnson, who succeeded Theresa May in late June, played his role as prime minister at the international level this week by trying to impose his Brexit vision on German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin and French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris.
The most anticipated encounter is with Donald Trump. Trump has said he is “eagerly awaiting” that Johnson, who has been impressed by the president, spoke to him more than once by telephone.
“The nature of Johnson’s message is of great importance,” Anna Nadebaedzi, an Open Europe researcher, told AFP. “It is an indication of the direction the UK will take after Brexit.”
– British Trump –
Boris Johnson, nicknamed “British Trump,” combines the same blond-haired US president with the same anti-EU view, but they are also divided in their country, sharing their populist attitude and provocative tendency.
Johnson came to power by playing the role of the savior of Brexit. He aims to sign a major trade deal with the United States that would cure the expected economic blows if London leaves the EU without an agreement.
Johnson said the UK would leave the EU on October 31 if it succeeded or failed to renegotiate Theresa May’s Brexit agreement with Brussels.
Despite the affection shown during their meeting with Johnson, Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron made it clear to him that London must offer alternative solutions for Brexit.
– International standing –
An international success would allow Johnson to prove himself as an internal leader, Maddox said. But a setback at the international level could weaken him at a time when he is facing a lot of criticism in the UK, and amid speculation of early elections.
Experts say there will be a price for a quick free trade agreement with the United States, and do not rule out a partial shift in British foreign policy.
“ Trump has clearly shown that he sees trade as an ‘unprofitable’ offer to the other side, ” Dina Allen, an international policy researcher at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Britain, told AFP.
In the short term, an exit without an EU deal could poison relations between Europeans, complicating the definition of the new relationship between London and Brussels, Allen said.
“It is dangerous and naive. A magical trade agreement with the United States, thousands of kilometers away, cannot compensate for the damage that economic (tense) relations with the European Union will cause,” the researcher said.
“A close relationship with the United States may require concessions (…) and a move away from Europe” in major international dossiers, she said.
So far, London has taken a similar stance with its European partners in support of the Iranian nuclear deal, a position reiterated by a British diplomatic source on the eve of the G7 summit.
In the meantime, London announced its participation in early August in a “maritime security mission” with the United States in the Gulf, which was considered a first step towards moving the country away from the European Union.
Charles Grant, director of the Center for Euphorian Reform, said Johnson “faces a dilemma” because “there are limits to what he wants to go” especially on climate change.
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