Britain’s dis­rup­tive politi­cian shows prom­ise in smooth­ing ties with U.S.

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitic­s - BY MAG­GIE GARRED

He once said his chances of be­com­ing prime min­is­ter were “as good as the chances of find­ing Elvis on Mars,” but rum­pled Boris John­son, a for­mer mayor of Lon­don, a for­mer for­eign sec­re­tary and an un­apolo­getic sup­porter of Britain’s exit from the Eu­ro­pean Union, is now the odd­son fa­vorite to suc­ceed Theresa May when the votes of Con­ser­va­tive Party mem­bers are counted.

Mr. John­son is con­sid­ered such a strong fa­vorite over Jeremy Hunt, the cur­rent for­eign sec­re­tary, that the spec­u­la­tion has moved on to what the change of lead­er­ship in Lon­don will mean for the trans-At­lantic re­la­tion­ship and whether the mu­tual ad­mi­ra­tion so­ci­ety between Mr. John­son and Pres­i­dent Trump will bring ma­jor changes to the now-rocky U.S.-British re­la­tion­ship.

As the next prime min­is­ter, Mr. John­son ar­gues, he would usher in a new era of ca­ma­raderie in bi­lat­eral re­la­tions with Wash­ing­ton.

“I’ve got a good re­la­tion­ship with the White House, and I have no em­bar­rass­ment in say­ing that I think it’s very im­por­tant that we have a strong re­la­tion­ship with our most im­por­tant ally,” Mr. John­son told vot­ers at a cam­paign rally.

Mr. Trump, who has shown no re­luc­tance to weigh in on do­mes­tic British pol­i­tics, has made clear what he thinks of the can­di­date who shares his views on Brexit and his skep­ti­cism of the Eu­ro­pean Union.

“I think Boris would do a very good job. I think he would be ex­cel­lent …,” Mr. Trump told the British news­pa­per The Sun in June, just as Mrs. May was pre­par­ing to for­mally step down. “He has been very pos­i­tive about me and our coun­try.”

Nile Gar­diner, di­rec­tor of The Her­itage Foundation’s Mar­garet Thatcher Cen­ter for Free­dom, said in an in­ter­view that he ex­pected a “strong and ro­bust part­ner­ship” between Mr. John­son and Mr. Trump.

“They’re both very charis­matic fig­ures, they’re both lead­ers who have bro­ken the po­lit­i­cal mold,” he said. “They’re both fig­ures who chal­lenge con­ven­tional wis­dom and are big-pic­ture politi­cians.”

Freddy Gray, deputy ed­i­tor of the con­ser­va­tive British weekly The Spec­ta­tor, said that af­ter Brexit, “the po­ten­tial of a Trump-Boris al­liance is ar­guably Britain’s big­gest hope.”

“The two men have a chemistry that goes be­yond their un­usual hair­styles and ap­pre­ci­a­tion of younger women,” Mr. Gray wrote in an anal­y­sis. “Both grasp that a pro­found shift is taking place in pol­i­tics, one that has pro­pelled peo­ple like them to power. They also sense, in the way that ma­cho beasts of­ten do, a cer­tain destiny in each other.

“Trump likes Britain, Brexit and Boris; it’s that simple,” Mr. Gray added.

Fo­cused on Brexit

Mr. John­son’s top pri­or­ity will be Brexit. He was one of the most prom­i­nent “leave” voices in the shock­ing 2016 na­tional ref­er­en­dum and has said he is pre­pared to take Britain out of the Eu­ro­pean Union whether or not an exit deal with Brus­sels is reached by the Oct. 31 dead­line. Mr. Trump has re­peat­edly dan­gled the prospect of a bi­lat­eral trade deal with the U.K. once it leaves the bloc.

“The more de­ter­mined we are to pur­sue ‘no deal,’ the less likely we will have to de­ploy it,” Mr. John­son told Par­lia­ment re­cently. “I do not want it. But to have an orderly exit from the EU, it is vi­tal you pre­pare.”

Mr. Trump ap­pears to agree. He re­sorted to Twit­ter again to crit­i­cize how Mrs. May han­dled the Brexit talks and to fault her for fail­ing to fol­low his ad­vice.

“What a mess she and her rep­re­sen­ta­tives have cre­ated,” Mr. Trump tweeted. “I told her how it should be done but she de­cided to go an­other way.”

An ex­plo­sive diplo­matic furor in the mid­dle of the John­son-Hunt lead­er­ship fight has Mr. John­son’s crit­ics in Britain claim­ing he will be too friendly to the U.S. and too def­er­en­tial to Mr. Trump in the vaunted “spe­cial re­la­tion­ship.”

Mr. Trump re­sponded an­grily af­ter the leak of a se­ries of cut­tingly critical ca­bles on his tem­per­a­ment and his ad­min­is­tra­tion by British Am­bas­sador Kim Dar­roch. Mrs. May and Mr. Hunt con­demned the leaks but de­fended the ca­reer di­plo­mat, say­ing he was do­ing his job in giv­ing his can­did assessment of the coun­try where he was posted.

“Who chooses our am­bas­sadors is a mat­ter for the United King­dom gov­ern­ment and the United King­dom prime min­is­ter, and I have made it clear if I am our next prime min­is­ter, the am­bas­sador in Wash­ing­ton stays be­cause it is our de­ci­sion,” Mr. Hunt said in a can­di­dates de­bate in Lon­don.

Mr. John­son was far more equiv­o­cal. He de­clined to say whether he would al­low the am­bas­sador to stay on if he is elected and said the U.S. re­la­tion­ship is of “fan­tas­tic im­por­tance” and that Mr. Trump “had been dragged into a British po­lit­i­cal de­bate.”

Mr. Dar­roch made the mat­ter moot by re­sign­ing his post, but Mr. John­son’s stand sparked con­tro­versy in Britain. Mr.

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