Boris Johnson ‘could be catalyst’ for break-up of the UK

Boris Johnson saw his Commons majority cut to just one after losing the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election
Boris Johnson saw his Commons majority cut to just one after losing the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election
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Boris Johnson could be the prime minister who provides the “catalyst” for the break-up of the United Kingdom, an academic has claimed.

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford has suggested the new Tory leader will be the “last prime minister of the United Kingdom”.

But Professor Michael Kenny from Cambridge University said this was “unlikely” as a result of the length of time it takes to leave a political union.

The academic, from the Bennett Institute of Public Policy, added: “It is highly unlikely that Boris will be the PM who oversees the break-up of Britain but he may well go down in history as the catalyst for its dissolution.”

To help keep the Union intact, the politics expert suggested Mr Johnson should give way to “more respected figures” in dealing with the Scottish government.

Mr Johnson faces a more “immediate and pressing challenge” in NI, however, with the PM having made clear his opposition to the backstop mechanism in the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.

“Showing an authentic commitment to keeping the border open whilst presenting no-deal as a serious policy option is an extremely hard – and perhaps impossible – act to pull off,” Prof Kenny warned.

“Johnson and his team need to engage much more deeply and convincingly with the various stakeholders on these issues, establishing a new tenor in relations with the Irish government and engaging fully with the very real fears of the bulk of Northern Irish citizens.

“The new government needs to commit itself publicly to making the restoration of government at Stormont a political priority.”

He added: “Crashing out of the EU without a deal at a time when devolution in the North is not operative creates the very real prospect of a return to direct rule by the British state – an outcome with negligible political gain and, potentially, a considerable human and economic cost.”

Prof Kenny’s comments came on the day Mr Johnson suffered a major blow after the Tories were beaten by the Liberal Democrats in the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election, meaning the new prime minister’s working majority in the House of Commons has been cut to just one.