Boris Johnson face aux conséquences du Brexit

Boris Johnson face aux conséquences du Brexit

NOTNeither the popularity of Prime Minister Boris Johnson nor that of Brexit was at the center of the British local elections which took place on Thursday May 5th. But, six years after the referendum which decided on the divorce with the European Union (EU), their results reflect both a certain lack of love of the British with regard to their fiery leader and the dissatisfaction linked to the harmful economic consequences of the exit from the EU. Mr Johnson’s Conservative Party lost hundreds of seats in local assemblies as a number of his voters preferred Labor or the Liberal Democrats.

In London, where Mr. Johnson was a popular mayor, several “boroughs” have turned their backs on him, while in the south of England the pro-European lib-dems have won over former conservative voters. The setbacks of the Tories are less clear in the working-class regions of northern England converted to Brexit by Mr. Johnson, who only very partially return to Labour.

Polls, like the electoral door-to-door, confirm that the dissatisfaction linked to the vertiginous rise in prices – for which Brexit is considered partially responsible – and to the functioning of the health system – which is suffering, despite the promises of the brexiters – fueled the defection of Tory voters. Added to this is the anger fueled by the Downing Street party scandal during confinement.

Earthquake

But this electoral setback would be little without the earthquake that risks triggering the announced victory of the nationalists of Sinn Fein in the elections for the Local Assembly of Northern Ireland. If the partial results are confirmed, the term “historic” will not be excessive. In 1921, in fact, the British had partitioned the island of Ireland and drawn the borders of Northern Ireland in such a way as to ensure a Protestant and unionist majority there, that is to say in favor of remaining within the UK. Since then, the executive set up in Belfast has always been controlled by a unionist party.

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The accession to the head of this local executive of a party whose raison d’être is, on the contrary, the independence of the whole of the island vis-à-vis London, and therefore the dissolution of Northern Ireland North, would appear all the more incredible as it is indirectly linked to Brexit, which the British government defends. The divorce from the European Union, which was rejected in the 2016 referendum by 56% of Northern Irish voters, triggered a movement away from Great Britain, marked by the boom in trade between the two parts of the island, at the expense of those with Britain.

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For Boris Johnson, the challenge is twofold: in the short term, the already dysfunctional Northern Irish executive risks being paralyzed by the Unionists’ possible refusal to play second fiddle to Sinn Fein. Such an impasse in the democratic game could foster tensions. The British Prime Minister will also have to deal with the consequences of the victory of a party which plans a referendum on the reunification of Ireland – in other words, the amputation of the United Kingdom – in the next five to ten years.

Such a prospect, potentially fraught with violence, is far from obvious. For the time being, a Sinn Fein success would once again illustrate the irresponsibility of Brexit promoters. Boris Johnson, leader of the Conservative Party, dedicated to maintaining a British Northern Ireland, could be the man who will have favored its loss for the kingdom.

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