The end result of Thursday’s British general election could have a profound bearing on the way forward for U.S.-U.K. relations. If Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson wins, Washington can look forward to a serious improve in its relations with London, not least because Mr. Johnson seems to enjoy a very good personal accord with President Trump.
A victory for Labour chief Jeremy Corbyn, whose quasi-Marxist politics and visceral anti-Americanism have been very much in proof through the election campaign, would create serious tensions in trans-Atlantic relations.
From Washington’s perspective, an important consideration is the influence the election end result could have on the fate of the Brexit negotiations. The Trump administration enthusiastically supports Britain’s plans to leave the European Union, because it means the U.K. would be capable to negotiate new trade agreements with the U.S. with out interference from the EU.
The protracted Brexit negotiations, which started after a 2016 referendum, have been seriously undermined by the previous Conservative government’s minority status within the House of Commons. Mr. Johnson’s first priority, therefore, is to seek a working majority, a feat not achieved by the Conservatives since former Prime Minister David Cameron secured a modest majority within the 2015 election. It quickly disappeared after his successor, Theresa May, called an election in 2017. She expected to bolster her majority however lost it instead. That severely limited her capability to complete Brexit and cost her the premiership this summer.
Within the 4½ months since Mr. Johnson changed Mrs. May, he has made it his priority to secure a deal with the EU that might allow Britain to leave by the end of January. He simply can’t do that along with his current plurality.
The newest polls suggest Mr. Johnson might win a majority. He has established a 10% lead, on average, over Mr. Corbyn’s Labour Party. Mr. Johnson helped his campaign by making Brexit the main issue of the Conservative Party’s manifesto, along with his slogan “Get Brexit Done” taking center stage at campaign rallies throughout the British Isles.
Moreover, Mr. Johnson has said repeatedly that he believes it’s important for Britain to complete the Brexit process in order that the nation can turn its attention to other urgent matters, both at home and abroad.
The Brexit obsession through the past three years has resulted in a noticeable decline in Britain’s participation in world affairs. On the recent London summit to mark the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s 70th anniversary, Britain’s voice in discussions about the future of the alliance was overpowered by other, more assertive figures such as France’s Emmanuel Macron, Germany’s Angela Merkel and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Britain’s fringe role on key discussions on global issues, from Ukraine to Syria, has been the norm lately—particularly during Mrs. May’s tenure. Her aversion to clear and conclusive decision-making resulted in frosty relations between the White House and Downing Street. “The issue with Britain under Theresa May is that she was always eager to ask for American help on issues like Russia’s involvement in the Salisbury poisoning,” a high-ranking U.S. diplomat informed me. “However when the White House asked her to assist its position on issues like Iran, there was no reciprocity.”
A victory for Mr. Johnson would assist to warm the froideur that has affected recent U.S.-U.K. discourse, and a Johnson-led authorities would seek to be a far more proactive associate in the trans-Atlantic relationship and restore Britain’s standing as a major voice in global affairs.
Events would take a really different turn if Mr. Corbyn were to pull off a surprise victory. While polls suggest it is highly unlikely that he can win an outright majority, it stays possible that Mr. Corbyn might form a coalition with staunch anti-Brexit parties, such as the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish Nationalists. Such an end result would result in another hung Parliament and extra political paralysis.
For the U.S., a Corbyn premiership can be a catastrophe. The Labour leader’s well-documented hobnobbing with terror groups such as Hamas, Hezbollah and the Irish Republican Army, as well as his political sympathies for Russia and Iran, would make him unacceptable.
In 4 decades in Parliament, primarily as a fringe left-wing agitator, Mr. Corbyn has made little secret of his distaste for America. For example, he described the killing of Osama bin Laden by U.S. special forces as a “tragedy” on Iran’s Press TV propaganda channel.
The centerpiece of his election campaign is the spurious allegation that the U.S. would destroy Britain’s National Health Service—a claim Mr. Trump categorically denied on the NATO summit—as a result of any future post-Brexit trade deal between the two countries. Add to this Mr. Corbyn’s long history of opposing NATO and advocating an finish to Britain’s standing as a nuclear-armed power, not to mention his illiterate economic plan for taxing excessive earners to fund his unaffordable welfare and renationalization program, and it’s clear that Britain would quickly discover itself on a precipitous decline if he wins.
A Johnson victory would herald a brand new golden period in U.S.-U.K. relations. A triumph for Mr. Corbyn, by sharp contrast, can be a calamity on each side of the Atlantic.