Diplomats’ pleas for more certainty in British politics have been answered by the resounding election victory by Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party in the December General Election
At residences and embassies across London, ambassadors and diplomats stayed up to the early hours to watch the election results come in. In a pre-election poll, diplomats predicted a hung parliament and more months of uncertainty, so there was some relief when exit polls pointed to an unambiguous Tory majority and the clarity this is expected to bring to British politics.
Envoys were quick to take to Twitter to congratulate Boris Johnson on his “resounding victory”. The Prime Minister’s namesake, US Ambassador Woody Johnson, tweeted: “Congratulations! Huge win!”
Giving his reaction to the BBC, the Ambassador described Prime Minister Johnson’s victory as “historic”. He went on to say that Britain’s departure from the EU would enable Britain to negotiate a “fair and balanced” free trade agreement with the US and that President Trump was ready to conclude such a deal in a short timeframe.
The dominance of Brexit and the stalemate it caused in British politics have proved frustrating over the past three years for the diplomatic corps. As Chinese Ambassador Liu Xiaoming tweeted after a general election was called: “Hopefully after a more unpredictable election, there’ll be more predictabilities and more certainties.”
On learning of the Conservative victory, Ambassador Liu said: “My warmest congratulations to Boris Johnson on winning the 2019 election. Many treasured memories of his commitment to China-UK relations when he was Mayor of London and Foreign Secretary. Look forward to an even stronger partnership between China-UK under his premiership.”
Even EU diplomats were resigned to the fact that Brexit was an inevitability: “We have all – the UK and the EU – put so much energy and time into this. After three years of paralysis, it’s time to move on; we have to get on with Brexit,” commented one.
Non-EU diplomats have complained privately that the dominance of Brexit in UK politics and British civil service has meant their bilateral relations have been stuck in a “holding pattern”.
However, a note of caution was sounded by one ambassador. A huge victory by the Scottish National Party in Scotland, coupled with the nationalist Sinn Fein winning most seats in Northern Ireland, could store up future constitutional crises. “A process has been set into motion – Scotland will want independence and Northern Ireland may decide to join the Republic of Ireland. Eventually Great Britain could become Little Britain.”