What happened: Conservative leader Boris Johnson has won a large majority in Britain’s election, breaking the Brexit deadlock and inflicting a heavy defeat on Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party.
- The Conservative’s large majority should allow Brexit to proceed at pace, possibly in a slightly softer direction with Prime Minister Johnson less reliant on Conservatives who favour a harder Brexit.
- The result was a solid rejection of Jeremy Corbyn and his ideas with analysts blaming his poor leadership, Brexit policy, antisemitism, support for terrorism and enemies of the UK.
- This is the largest Conservative party majority since 1987 and will enable a stable Government with the authority to pursue a clear domestic and foreign policy agenda.
Context: The Conservative narrative of post-Brexit global Britain, forging trade deals with international partners and building a new role on the world stage, was a hollow vision with Brexit stuck and a weak minority Government. Political success and the security of a large majority will empower Prime Minister Johnson to invest time and effort in foreign policy, particularly in the Middle East.
- Johnson has been clear that Iran should not acquire nuclear weapons, is concerned about its development of ballistic missiles and has worked with France and Germany to support talks on a new comprehensive agreement whilst putting pressure on Iran to reverse its violations of the 2015 nuclear deal.
- The Prime Minister has committed significant naval assets to protect British shipping in the face of Iranian action in the Gulf and has told Arab leaders in the Gulf that: “The Gulf’s security is our security and we remain deeply committed to the stability of the region.”
- Johnson supports a strong trade and security partnership with Israel and has expressed deep support for the country he has described as: “A free society with a thriving and innovative economy and the same essential values that we in Britain hold dear. Liberty, democracy and the rule of law have found a home in Israel—more so than anywhere else in the Middle East.””
- A fierce opponent of boycotts of Israel, Boris Johnson set out his vision for a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians in 2017 when he wrote: “There should be two independent and sovereign states. The borders should be based on the lines as they stood on June 4, 1967 – the eve of the Six Day War – with equal land swaps to reflect the national, security, and religious interests of the Jewish and Palestinian peoples. There needs to be a just, fair, agreed and realistic solution to the Palestinian refugee question … demographically compatible with two states for two peoples and a generous package of international compensation must be made available. Jerusalem should be a shared capital of Israel and a Palestinian state, granting access and religious rights for all who hold it dear.”
Looking ahead: Brexit is the Government’s top priority but the size of its victory could mean substantial changes to Government policy in the months ahead. As a former Foreign Secretary, Johnson is deeply immersed in international relations and as a secure leader with a strong mandate he will be a formidable presence on the global stage.
- One idea floated has been the potential merger of the Department of International Development with the Foreign Office, with all policy on international aid coming under the control of the Foreign Secretary.
The change could lead to a reduction in the UK’s foreign aid commitment of 0.7 per cent of GDP, which may have an impact in the Middle East where UK aid plays an important part in relief programmes for Syrian refugees and is a major donor to UNWRA and services for Palestinian refugees.