Fri | Dec 4, 2020

Welcome, Boris - Holness says Ja stands ready to work with new British PM as rocky Brexit road beckons

Published:Thursday | July 25, 2019 | 12:14 AM
Britain’s new Prime Minister Boris Johnson waves from the steps outside 10 Downing Street, London, yesterday. Johnson replaces Theresa May, following her resignation last month after Parliament repeatedly rejected the Brexit withdrawal agreement she struck with the European Union.
Britain’s new Prime Minister Boris Johnson waves from the steps outside 10 Downing Street, London, yesterday. Johnson replaces Theresa May, following her resignation last month after Parliament repeatedly rejected the Brexit withdrawal agreement she struck with the European Union.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness has offered congratulations to the new British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Johnson took the reins from Theresa May yesterday in what was Queen Elizabeth’s 14th time seeing a different leader form a government for her since becoming Queen in 1952.

In welcoming the new prime minister of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland to the post, Holness said Johnson’s “leadership comes at a critical time for the United Kingdom, Europe, and the wider world. Indeed, the many challenges that confront us all call for strong political leadership and joint action to achieve the shared goals of development, prosperity, and security for our peoples and nations. We wish for you and your Government wisdom, vision, and courage in undertaking this new mandate.”

DEPENDABLE PARTNER

Holness said that Jamaica highly values the United Kingdom as a close and dependable partner and friend.

“Our long-standing relations extend across a wide gamut of areas which remain crucial to both our countries. I assure you of our commitment to continued close collaboration at the bilateral, regional, and multilateral levels,” he added.

Holness wished Johnson a successful tenure, noting that Jamaica stood ready to have dialogue on critical issues and to build bonds with Johnson’s administration.

Jamaica, he said, was looking forward to “the further enhancement of these relations through deeper engagement and cooperation on issues such as climate change, peace and security, human rights, and justice”.

Johnson has vowed to break the impasse that defeated his predecessor by leading the country out of the European Union and silencing “the doubters, the doomsters, the gloomsters” who believe it can’t be done.

But the brash Brexit champion faces the same problems that flummoxed May during her three years in office: heading a government without a parliamentary majority and with most lawmakers opposed to leaving the EU without a divorce deal.

Johnson has just 99 days to make good on his promise to deliver Brexit by October 31 after what he called “three years of unfounded self-doubt”.

He optimistically pledged to get “a new deal, a better deal” with the EU than the one secured by May, which was repeatedly rejected by Britain’s Parliament.

“The people who bet against Britain are going to lose their shirts,” he said, standing outside the shiny black door of 10 Downing Street yesterday.

Trying to avoid the political divisions that plagued May, Johnson swept out many of her ministers to make way for his own team, dominated by loyal Brexiteers.

Over half of May’s Cabinet is gone, including ex-Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Johnson’s defeated rival for the Tory leadership, who said he had turned down the chance to stay in government in a different job.

In his first speech as prime minister, Johnson unleashed a scattershot spray of promises – from more police on the streets to ending a ban on genetically modified crops to faster Internet access.

To the many critics of the polarising politician who find the phrase “Prime Minister Boris Johnson” jarring, it was typical of a verbal vim that is not always wedded to hard facts.

For the 55-year-old Johnson, walking into the Downing Street residence was the culmination of a life’s ambition. The flamboyant, Latin-spouting former London mayor and foreign secretary helped lead the 2016 campaign to get Britain out of the EU and is now the darling of Brexit backers who feel frustrated that three years later, the country is still in the bloc.

Judging by his words on Wednesday, Johnson’s approach to the EU will be a mix of charm and threats.

He vowed to keep relations with the EU “as warm and as close and as affectionate as possible” and promised the three million EU nationals in Britain “absolute certainty” that they can stay. May made the same promise, but it still is not enshrined in law.

In the next breath, Johnson said Britain might be forced to leave with no deal if “Brussels refuses any further to negotiate”, trying to pin the blame for any future failure on the bloc. That is not an approach likely to win the trust and confidence of EU leaders.

The EU is adamant that it will not renegotiate the agreement struck with May on the terms of Britain’s departure and the framework of future relations. Without it, Britain faces a chaotic Brexit that economists warn would disrupt trade by imposing tariffs and customs checks between Britain and the bloc, send the value of the pound plummeting, and plunge the UK into recession.

Chief EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said “we are ready to listen and to work with” Johnson, but he did not budge on the bloc’s refusal to alter the deal.

“A no-deal Brexit will never be, never, the choice of the EU, but we are prepared,” he said in Brussels before Johnson spoke.