Brexit, ‘One Nation’ and a British breakup

What next? Key promises from the Tory election campaign (above).

Is this a new era in British history? With Boris unfettered, there will be a wave of political change; the role of the UK will be reset, and tensions between England and Scotland will soar.

What’s the future? Boris Johnson claims that he has a “historic mandate”. In an election which was all about him — with few, other Tory big-hitters getting a look in — he will have undisputed power to shape events and dominate Parliament.

The first burst

Later today, Johnson will visit Buckingham Palace where the Queen will invite him to form a new government.

He will make a speech outside Number 10 and begin a Cabinet reshuffle, which may last over the weekend, or be done in a day as it was when he took over from Theresa May.

On Tuesday, MPs will return to Westminster and begin the process of swearing in, where they take an oath of allegiance.

The process will be rushed through in two days in order to allow for a Queen’s Speech on Thursday, when Johnson will lay out a new legislative timetable and the main planks of what he means by “one-nation” conservatism.

He has pledged to re-introduce the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement Bill as an “early Christmas present” for voters. This could mean MPs sitting next Friday in order for the Bill to be introduced at first reading.

The middle distance

MPs will be back in Westminster in early January to pass the Brexit Bill, with just a few weeks to get the legislation through both houses before the 31 January deadline.

A more far-reaching reshuffle is expected after 31 January, which could include a restructuring of Whitehall. The Department for Exiting the European Union could be folded into Trade, and the Department for International Development could be folded into the Foreign Office.

Sajid Javid, expected to remain Chancellor, will hold his first Budget at the end of February. Johnson intends to use it to start shaping his domestic agenda. Several policies that were shelved in the manifesto, notably a pledge for commitment to free childcare for two-year-olds and a fully fledged plan for reforming social care reform, are likely to make a return.

The Budget will also aim to deliver on a host of specific tax and spending promises made during the election campaign.

These will include 50,000 more nurses and a £34 billion cash injection for the NHS; an increase of the National Insurance payment threshold to £9,500; £4 billion to be spent on flood defences; 20,000 new police officers, and 10,000 more prison places.

Remember, too, that the manifesto included promises of major investments in people and infrastructure. This includes £3 billion for technical and vocational education, and continuing regional development initiatives like the so-called “Northern Powerhouse”.

The long run

The trade deals with the EU need to be completed by the end of 2020 if Johnson is to keep his campaign promises. In reality, many expect them to take longer — but with a large majority and less need to please the Right wing of his party, Johnson may engineer a softer Brexit.

Donald Trump has already reacted to the election result with the promise of a big new trade deal with the USA.

The majority allows Johnson free rein to implement many of the more controversial measures in the Tory manifesto, including a Constitution, Democracy and Rights Commission. Many see this as paving the way for taking revenge on the courts for how judges interpreted the law over Brexit.

And there will be a major clash between England and Scotland, which threatens the historic union of the two countries. A strengthened Scottish National Party is claiming the right to hold another referendum on Scottish independence.

With Scottish people deeply opposed to leaving the EU — and England set to leave in January — it is hard to see how the two can be reconciled.

A new era?

Yes, say many commentators today. This is the beginning of an irreversible change in British history. In politics, it will be seen as the day the Labour Party died and the Tory Party became the voice of working class voters. Economically, it will be seen as the day when Britain turned its back on its European heritage and faced towards America.

Take all that with a large pinch of salt, say others. It feels more like an anomaly than a true turning point. Labour will be reborn and come back strongly at the next election. And now that the hardline Brexiteers have lost control of the Government, we will see a much softer, more pro-European Johnson emerging from the shadows.

You Decide

  1. Is this a historic moment?
  2. Is Boris Johnson possibly a great leader?

Activities

  1. Write a letter to Boris Johnson telling him what he should do for you while he is in power. Give him a list of your top five priorities.
  2. Write a letter to Jeremy Corbyn offering him your analysis of what he got wrong and how Labour could reinvent itself.

Some People Say...

“For millions of people across our country, these results will bring dread and dismay.”

Jo Swinson, former MP and leader of the Liberal Democrats

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Now, unshackled of trying to run a minority government and no longer reliant on the Northern Irish unionists, Boris Johnson will be able to take the negotiations on Britain’s future relationship with the EU — which will take up much of next year — in any direction he chooses.
What do we not know?
Just how much he will change direction. Notoriously fickle, many experts are now predicting that Johnson will distance himself from hard Brexiteers, such as Jacob Rees-Mogg, and will move closer to the position of his father and sister, who remain very influential in his life, and who are both pro-European.

Word Watch

Mandate
The authority to carry out a policy, regarded as given by the electorate to a party or candidate that wins an election.
Oath of allegiance
An ancient promise to be loyal to the British monarch, and his or her heirs and successors.
Withdrawal Agreement Bill
A bill of the Parliament of the United Kingdom introduced in the House of Commons in the second session of the 57th Parliament that proposed to implement the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement into British domestic law.
Infrastructure
The basic physical and organisational structures and facilities (like buildings, roads, power supplies) needed for the operation of a society.
Northern Powerhouse
A proposal to boost economic growth in the North of England, for example by improving investment in transport links.
Anomaly
A deviation from the usual.

Subjects

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