Overnight, Boris Johnson was named leader of the British Conservative party, beating out his competitor, Jeremy Hunt to become Britain’s next prime minister (PM), and taking over from Theresa May.
In his victory speech, Johnson promised he would “deliver Brexit, unite the country, and defeat Jeremy Corbyn”.
Who is Boris Johnson and what are his policies?
Johnson became Mayor of London in 2008, and once he secured a second term win, was installed in a safe Conservative “Tory” Seat - the same party behind Brexit, and the party former British PM David Cameron and Theresa May belonged to.
But, Johnson really cemented his place in politics when he threw his weight behind Brexit, touring the country in a big red bus to reassure voters of the benefits of leaving the European Union.
So its unsurprising that Brexit is front and foremost in his policies.
In fact, he has promised to leave the EU by 31 October this year, and completely ruled out a further delay.
Either tear up Britain’s 585-page Withdrawal Agreement with the EU and instead look at “alternative arrangements” to keep the Irish border open, later in time; or, plan B, leave without a deal, but prevent tariffs using a rule called “GATT 24”.
Experts say plan B is impossible.
If Johnson plans to leave without a deal at all, Members of Parliament say they’ll try and block the move.
He could consider overruling them, or proroguing Parliament (end the parliamentary session) so they can’t vote against him, but that could lead to a no-confidence vote in the entire government, which could just trigger another general election.
Boris Johnson’s election as PM - what does it mean for Australia?
AMP’s chief economist, Shane Oliver, told Yahoo Finance he doesn’t think Boris Johnson’s election will negatively affect Australia.
In fact, he says the Aussie economy has “basically ignored” Johnson’s election, soaring to an 11-year high today.
However, Johnson’s Brexit plan, should it come into place, could have as knock-on effect to Australia.
While the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade says there will be no changes to the rules covering our trade and investment interests and people-to-people ties with the UK and EU while the UK remains within the EU, in a ‘no deal’ scenario, there could be implications for Australian businesses that import to and from the UK and the EU, in terms of taxation, the regulation of medicines and medical equipment and workplace rights.
Meanwhile, if you’re an Aussie wanting to live abroad in the UK, our government doesn’t expect any huge prospective visa changes for those wanting to do so.
But, you should be aware that free movement between the UK and the EU will most likely be cut off.
In fact, Oliver says if anything, a ‘no-deal’ Brexit could be a good thing for Aussies looking to travel to the UK because a ‘no-deal’ Brexit will mean a weak UK economy and therefore a weak British pound, which will make travel to the UK cheaper than ever before.
In the worst case, weakness in the UK could lead to a slight weakness in the EU, which in turn could lead to weakness in the global economy, but Oliver added that he doubts that’ll be a problem given the UK’s small size.
Brexit - deal or no deal, measures are already in place
The Australian government has already put measures in place to ensure some industries will be safe from any changes as a result of Brexit, deal or no deal.
In January this year, Trade Minister Simon Birmingham announced that Australia and the UK had signed a bilateral Wine Agreement and Mutual Recognition Agreement, which means that trade agreements already in place between our countries for wine and other exports would continue to apply for the UK beyond Brexit.
“These agreements provide assurances to Australian exporters that they will be able to get their goods into the UK post-Brexit whether it be wine, medical devices or automotive parts without additional trade barriers or regulations,” he said in a statement.
“They are a significant and necessary step in our post-Brexit preparations, where we want to minimise disruptions to trade flows and provide as much certainty to Australian exporters as we can.”
“On top of these, we’re committed to securing a comprehensive free trade agreement with the UK as soon as they are in a position to do so, which will even further boost trade flows between our two countries.”
Australia will also need to focus on building a relationship with the EU, as until Brexit, the UK was a major aid in facilitating that relationship.
But, Birmingham has said trade negotiations will have to be a two-way street.
"We will consult with industry, we will hear their arguments and we certainly won't be trading anything away until we see the market access terms that the EU is offering us," he told the ABC earlier this month.
Aussie PM Scott Morrison supports new Boris Johnson’s new role
Prime Minister Scott Morrison is a big fan of Boris Johnson.
Congratulations to @BorisJohnson on his election as Leader of the Conservative Party in the UK. I look forward to working with him and catching up at the G7 next month.— Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) July 23, 2019
Morrison tweeted that Johnson had a “reputation for getting things done and making things happen”, and insisted Australia’s “great relationship” with the UK would remain with Johnson’s election.
Johnson is likely to make signing a free-trade agreement with Australia a priority after Brexit goes through, according to the AFR.
And it’s not just Morrison who gives Johnson his full support, President Trump has also waded in with messages of congratulations.
Congratulations to Boris Johnson on becoming the new Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. He will be great!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 23, 2019
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