The appointment of Boris Johnson as the United Kingdom’s prime minister has sparked worry in Scotland, with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon saying she has “profound concerns about the prospect of his premiership.”
Johnson defeated Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt with 66% of the vote in the ballot between Conservative Party members for the designation of UK’s next prime minister, who will succeed Theresa May.
“These are concerns that I am certain will be shared by the vast majority of people in Scotland who, had they been given any say, would not have chosen to hand the keys of Number 10 to someone with his views and track record,” Sturgeon said in a statement given immediately after Johnson was approved as the UK’s next leader.
Johnson has previously come under criticism for his liberal employment of language, which has included referring to former US Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton as a “sadistic nurse,” claiming that Barack Obama has an “ancestral dislike” of Britain, and equating the European project with that of Hitler’s Germany.
In 2016, Johnson was an instrumental figure in Vote Leave’s campaign for the UK to withdraw from the European Union. Scotland voted to remain in the EU in the 2016 referendum by 62% to 38%.
Johnson’s Brexit stance is to leave the EU by hook or by crook by the end of the current extension date of October 31, even in the scenario of a hard Brexit.
In June, Sturgeon told EURACTIV in an exclusive interview that a ‘hard Brexit’ such as the one Johnson is prepared to enact, would make the case for Scottish independence from the UK, “more urgent.”
On Tuesday (23 July), Sturgeon was in no doubt to the damage that a no-deal Brexit could do to ‘jobs, investment and living standards’ in the UK.
“Brexit of any kind would be deeply damaging to Scotland and the rest of the UK, but his public pledge to leave the EU by October 31 – ‘come what may’ and ‘do or die’ – flies in the face of logic, common sense or any basic regard for the well-being of the people and nations of the UK.”
Sturgeon went further in imploring the new prime minister delegate to go back on his previous stance and rule out the possibility of a no-deal Brexit.
“It is a deeply irresponsible threat and not one that should be contemplated by any serious political leader. It should now be taken off the table without delay or equivocation,” she said.
Elsewhere in Europe, Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen said of Johnson that “we have to tackle many different and difficult issues together,” while French President Macron said he is looking forward to working alongside Johnson, in the context of Brexit but also after the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister of Ireland, Simon Coveney, said his government would “work constructively” with the new UK cabinet with a view to strengthening British and Irish relations.
In addition, Italy’s interior minister and leader of the ruling right-wing Lega party, Matteo Salvini, congratulated Johnson on his victory, saying that he likes the new UK leader even more after Tony Blair had depicted him as even more dangerous than Lega.
Back in Westminster, the UK’s Labour party were unsurprisingly not as supportive of the Johnson. Their leader Jeremy Corbyn called for a general election and warned that Johnson’s premiership would “mean job cuts, higher prices in the shops, and risk our NHS being sold off to US corporations in a sweetheart deal with Donald Trump.”
Trump himself came out in support of Johnson, tweeting that the new leader “will be great.”
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]