Boris Johnson announced on Thursday that he would leave his post as prime minister of the United Kingdom as soon as a replacement from within the Conservative Party is selected, after a series of scandals resulted in a revolt from within his administration. So what happens now to the “Global Britain” that Johnson was trying to build? We reached out to our experts to gauge the reaction in foreign capitals to the drama in Westminster, and what the future might hold for the United Kingdom.
Boris Johnson once remarked he went into politics because nobody ever built a statue to a journalist. The truth is that nobody in Britain is ever going to build a statue of Boris Johnson, except perhaps in mockery.
He will leave two monuments in British political history: not only an increasingly failing Brexit but also a warning to future prime ministers of how you can personally fritter away an eighty-seat majority. Johnson tried to rule presidentially, even royally—in his desperation talking of his personal mandate—only to underscore that Westminster remains a parliamentary system, in which leaders serve at the pleasure of their MPs.
It may not be a plinth outside Parliament, but despite everything Boris Johnson will leave office with a street named after him in Ukraine. His decision to be “way out in front” of all Western allies on defending Ukraine, from anti-tank weapons to sanctions, made a critical difference in the nation’s defense in the eyes of Ukraine’s most senior officials who, pretty much alone, tweeted their respect and gratitude for his achievements.
A lot of what Johnson did was empower a tough-minded network of foreign-policy advisors and security officials to put Ukraine first. The British senior civil service is not politically appointed so much of this network will stay in place. London without Johnson will not drop Kyiv.
Like on Brexit, he leaves a legacy that his successors simply can’t overturn—the cross-party consensus is deep on backing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy—but again like on Brexit, the question is with what fervor will it be pursued. The next prime minister is unlikely to have Johnson’s appetite for risk, especially on sanctions, as the ailing British economy gets sicker.
—Ben Judah is a senior fellow at the Europe Center.