Can Boris Brexit without hurting UK?

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking in the Houses of Parliament in central London. (AFP Photo)

While political uncertainty in Britain has ended somewhat with Boris Johnson assuming the mantle of prime minister, the possibility of an economic crisis looms large over the country, the European Union and even the world. Johnson, a standard bearer of the British Conservative Party’s Brexiteers, has pledged that Britain will leave the EU by October 31 whether or not London and Brussels reach agreement on the terms of Britain’s exit. His “come what may” approach to Brexit bodes economic disaster for Britain as it could well mean exiting the EU without a transition plan or any trade deals in place. A recent IMF report states that a no-deal Brexit would “sap confidence, weaken investment, dislocate local supply chains and severely slow global growth below the baseline.” This is reason for serious concern. Johnson may be charismatic and well-educated, having studied at Eton and Oxford. However, like US President Donald Trump, he is supremely ill-suited for high office. The two leaders are described as mirror images of each other, and not just because they sport similar straw-coloured mops on their head. Both are rabble-rousing populists, known to thrive on misogyny, hate rhetoric and racist and homophobe policies.

Prime Minister Johnson has appointed four people of South Asian origin to key posts in his cabinet. Still, his frequent use of racist slurs to describe immigrants and non-white nationals of Commonwealth countries has triggered considerable concern among local immigrant populations. Were these comments part of the strategy of a populist politician on the campaign trail? Or, do they reflect his beliefs and principles? His support of an Australian-style points-based immigration policy, which prioritises wealth and education in immigration decisions, does not bode well for immigrants from humble backgrounds. Even a no-deal Brexit could work in India’s favour if New Delhi plays its cards right. Both former prime minister Theresa May and Johnson, then British foreign secretary, indicated during their visits to India in November 2016 and January 2017, respectively, that trade relations with India would be top priority for Britain post-Brexit. However, things were put on hold as London’s Brexit negotiations with EU made no progress. India and Britain are keen on a free trade agreement (FTA). A no-deal Brexit could strengthen India’s hand in FTA negotiations. The Narendra Modi government must strategise to fully benefit from this advantage. It should plan its next steps well ahead of a no-deal Brexit.

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