Boris Johnson’s double Donald dilemma

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson waves as he departs following a visit to Torbay Hospital on August 23, 2019 in Torquay, England. | WPA Pool photo by Finnbarr Webster via Getty Images

Boris Johnson’s double Donald dilemma

The British prime minister must try to balance two opposing allies as he makes his debut on the world stage.


8/23/19, 11:30 PM CET

Updated 8/24/19, 12:41 AM CET

LONDON — For Boris Johnson, the G7 will be a tale of two Donalds.

The new U.K. prime minister flies into Biarritz Saturday lunchtime, determined to show the world Britain has its mojo back. The centerpiece of his weekend is a meeting first thing Sunday with Donald Trump. Hours later, Johnson will come face-to-face with Donald Tusk.

“My message to G7 leaders this week is this: The Britain I lead will be an international, outward-looking, self-confident nation,” Johnson said in his pre-summit statement. Those who think Brexit — even the no-deal Brexit he is prepared to enact in just 10 weeks’ time — means the U.K. retreating from the world are “gravely mistaken,” he added.

If the Trump meeting is likely to be hailed by Johnson as an exemplar of the U.K.’s new place in the world, the Tusk one will be a reminder of the fractious Brexit process he needs to navigate before he can pursue that agenda with gusto.

In truth, neither head-to-head will be easy. While in style Johnson might appear to share the straight-talking rambunctiousness of his North American ally, in substance many of the prime minister’s policy positions remain closely aligned with those of his continental counterparts.

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