The first thing you need to know about Boris Johnson is that he is NOT a buffoon.
Colourful, yes; controversial, absolutely. But comparisons to U.S. President Donald Trump and even former Toronto Mayor Rob Ford don’t hold water.
Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson — BoJo for short — was born in New York to a wealthy British family.
He attended the best schools money can buy including Eton College, alma mater of countless kings and prime ministers.
He studied classics at Oxford and is more likely to base his politics on Ancient Rome than modern day Washington.
He’s no political neophyte. As Mayor of London, he cut a familiar figure riding his bike to work and introduced “Boris Bikes” to the capital.
He’s also a long-serving Member of Parliament.
Now he’s the new British Prime Minister — taking over from Theresa May, whose disastrous three years in office frustrated Britons angry that her dithering has left the country neither in nor out of the European Union after the 2016 referendum voted to Leave.
Some in Canada are scratching their heads at how someone with Johnson’s purported extreme views could become Prime Minister of a country with which we share so many common values.
The answer’s simple.
Had May continued her waffling ways, or had the British Conservative Party elected a new leader who shared her middle-of- the-road views, they risk losing the next election to the ultra right-wing populist politician Nigel Farage.
Farage is leader of UKIP — the UK Independence Party — and the Brexit Party since 2019.
He also led a group called Leave Means Leave.
The Tories are hoping to fight Farage’s populism with their own populist in the shape of Johnson.
Think of Johnson as Andrew Scheer and Farage as Maxime Bernier.
Boris at least must work within the rules of an established political party.
He has an unenviable task ahead.
Several senior ministers in May’s cabinet have resigned.
There’s open revolt in his party, which does not hold a majority in the House of Commons.
He’s promised to unite them and the country and deliver Brexit — deal or no deal — in just 100 days: The deadline is October 31.
Trick or treat.
What does all this mean for Canada?
Well, first you can expect British companies to start looking here for new trade partners.
If the UK crashes out of the EU with no deal, trade with European countries will become more difficult for them.
It will also make travel more burdensome.
Now, once you’ve landed in a European country, you can travel freely throughout the EU.
Not any more.
If you start your trip in the UK, expect to show your passport when you travel to the rest of Europe.
Canadian companies with European headquarters in London may move them to other parts of Europe for easier access to the EU.
Perhaps the most troublesome aspect of a no-deal Brexit is what it will do to the UK itself.
The last thing anyone wants is the return of a hard border with Ireland.
The 1998 Good Friday Accord delicately created a framework by which the North and South of Ireland could co-exist peacefully.
The fact that Northern Ireland — which is part of the UK — and the Republic of Ireland in the south were both part of the EU meant there was no longer a hard border between the two countries.
It effectively ended 500 years of sectarian violence.
With a no-deal Brexit, a hard border looms ominously.
Scotland held a referendum in 2014 that rejected independence from the UK. Just hours after Johnson won the leadership vote, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she’s considering “accelerating” a second independence vote.
Welsh nationalists could follow suit, leaving just little England alone and isolated on an island where the rest of the countries are part of the EU.
Yes, Boris has a colourful love life. He left his wife of many years recently for a younger woman.
That may have come to a crashing end with recent news reports of a plate-smashing argument with his new squeeze at her apartment.
She wasn’t around for his victory vote, but could resurface.
Johnson is the 14th British Prime Minister to serve Queen Elizabeth.
Who knows? Perhaps she can talk sense into him.
If you want to blame anyone for Brexit, point your finger at her 12th PM and Johnson’s Eton school fellow, David Cameron.
He’s the one who called a referendum and ignited this bonfire in the first place.
Will Boris put out the fire, or just fan the flames?
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019