Illustration by W.Flemming for POLITICO
If Boris Johnson’s gamble pays off, he will become one of the most consequential figures in modern European history. The U.K. prime minister has gone all in on a general election. Should he emerge with a majority in the House of Commons, he will not only be able to finally pull the United Kingdom out of the European Union, he’ll have a clear run at governing for the next five years — something that no British leader has been able to safely plan for since David Cameron took office in 2010.
Expect the emergence of a U.K. reshaped in the prime minister’s image — freewheeling and opportunistic on the world stage. A born attention-seeker, Johnson is a late but fervent convert to the importance of the fight against climate change, an advocate of free trade over protectionism and, when it doesn’t suit his domestic political interests to play the nativist, an internationalist at heart.
Whatever Johnson might say, what’s not on the ballot in December is a definitive end to Brexit. If he loses, it’s back to the drawing board. But even victory will only mean continued Brexit negotiations on the future trading relationship with the EU and another ticking clock to the end of the transition period. Whatever influence he will have gained at home, there will still be plenty he’ll have to accomplish across the Channel before Brexit is complete.