Can Boris Johnson Survive Contact With Brexit Reality?

Can Boris Johnson Survive Contact With Brexit Reality?
Boris Johnson, the new leader of the British Conservative party, at a Conservative Party leadership campaign event in London, July 17, 2019 (AP photo by Frank Augstein).

The long-running Tory leadership contest has finally come to an end, producing the result that everybody expected all along: Boris Johnson has become the new leader of the British Conservative Party and, by extension, the 77th prime minister of the United Kingdom and 55th person to hold the office.*

Johnson’s coronation is the culmination of a lifetime of inherited entitlement and personal ambition, a path to the premiership that began at Britain’s most elite private school and its most prestigious university, then passed via plum jobs in its right-wing press. Ever since he was elected mayor of London in 2008, there’s been a feeling of inevitability about today’s outcome. Johnson has essentially been a prime minister-in-waiting for over a decade. But he could hardly have assumed the role at a worse time, as he inherits a poisoned chalice where every major decision he must make could potentially sink his government.

No prime minister since Winston Churchill has faced greater challenges waiting for them on their first day at 10 Downing Street. Like his predecessor, Theresa May, Johnson will be tasked with shepherding a Brexit deal through the House of Commons. Complicating matters, Johnson has set himself a series of red lines that make his mission nearly impossible, not least the removal of the so-called Irish backstop from May’s withdrawal agreement with Brussels, something that the European Union has repeatedly ruled out.

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