Boris Johnson's first year in office

Following Theresa May's resignation Boris Johnson became British Prime Minister a year ago today, on July 24, 2019. Since then he has led the country out of the EU and survived new elections. The negotiations on the UK's post-Brexit trade relations continue, as does the fight against Scottish independence. 2020 has brought the coronavirus pandemic and most recently a major row with China. What do commentators think of Johnson's performance so far?

Open/close all quotes
Corriere della Sera (IT) /

A roller coaster ride

No one could have predicted that Johnson's first year in office would be like this, comments London correspondent Luigi Ippolito in Corriere della Sera:

“If a screenwriter had submitted such a script, he would have been beaten around the ears with it: a prime minister who in his first twelve months in office suspends parliament, is reined in by the country's Supreme Court, then wins the elections, takes his country out of the European Union, gets a divorce, becomes a father for the sixth time, ends up in intensive care and almost dies. It's completely absurd. But that's exactly what has happened. ... And this roller coaster ride has just begun.”

Die Presse (AT) /

Pressure from all sides

Johnson's situation is uncomfortable in many ways, Die Presse states:

“Dozens of potential trading partners are now breaking away, the dream of Empire 2.0 threatens to burst. First there was the first, the putative 'golden era' in relations with China. ... But then the latest parliamentary intelligence report revealed the disruptive manoeuvres of the Russian secret service and how many had lobbied for the oligarchs in 'Londongrad'. Both externally and internally, the pressure is enormous. Labour leader Keir Starmer has developed into a genuine rival for Boris Johnson, and even more dangerous centrifugal forces are threatening the British system. On Thursday the prime minister travelled to Edinburgh in a bid to keep the stubborn Scots who are striving for independence in the United Kingdom. The Brexit has put the unity of the kingdom at stake. The challenges Johnson faces in his second year in office could not be greater.”

Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

Destroyer of the United Kingdom

There may soon be very little left of the UK, Rzeczpospolita notes:

“Four years after the Brexit referendum, it's becoming clear that leaving the EU has not opened up the prospects that Boris Johnson promised the United Kingdom. ... Most Scots who didn't believe in the prime minister's fantasies from the start no longer want to be under his governance, and plan to opt for independence. If they succeed, Northern Ireland will likely follow suit and try to unite with the Republic of Ireland. Then the English, seeing their country shrink to the size of Tunisia, could lose confidence in their leader.”

The Spectator (GB) /

The country needs a wake-up call

Boris Johnson should take the risk of Scottish independence seriously and improve his rhetoric on the issue, warns The Spectator:

“No. 10's aim should be to make prime ministerial visits to Scotland so frequent that they cease to be regarded as events in and of themselves. But the battle for the Union must not just be fought in Scotland. ... People need to realise how devastating and disrupting Scottish independence would be for the whole of the UK. If Johnson can wake England up to the danger that the Union is in, he'll have made it that much more likely than it can be saved.”

Handelsblatt (DE) /

China policy could set an example for others

In response to the enactment of the security law in Hong Kong at the end of May, the UK suspended its extradition agreement with China, whereupon the latter threatened the British with "severe countermeasures". Handelsblatt writes that London should not be thrown off course:

“And there is much to suggest that this won't happen either. Especially since the hard line is supported by the majority of the British public and many British distrust Chinese companies like Huawei. At least part of the British population has demonstrated with its Brexit vote that it is prepared to accept economic disadvantages for a political project. This gives Prime Minister Johnson the chance to set an example for other governments with his China policy. This is a role the politician is only too happy to play - but this time it would be the right course anyway.”