Foreign Policy Digital

Will the Sun Set on the Boris Empire?

The new British prime minister’s vision for a Global Britain gets history—and the present—all wrong.

Boris Johnson, Britain’s incoming prime minister, is the quintessential nostalgic leader. Since the Brexit referendum, in order to make Britain’s future outside the European Union appealing, he has played on London’s past, inflating the true power and influence of his country. Little does it matter that Britain no longer rules the waves, that a former colony such as India aspires to become a great power, that continental Europe is no longer a military battlefield. In his telling, the sun will never set on the Boris Empire.

Just a few days before the Brexit vote in 2016, he his fellow citizens to back leaving the European Union in order “to take the chains off the giant, unshackled Britannia and let the Lion roar again” and win the “battle for British democracy.” He even claimed that—would have joined him on his campaign bus. Amid the referendum campaign, he was so immersed in the past that the Labour MP Yvette Cooper in the Guardian, “Can the prime minister invite him to return to the 21st century?”

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