‘Nothing to fear’ for Canada despite Johnson, Trump comparisons: expert
Canadians have “nothing to fear” from new U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson despite the similarities being noted between him and U.S. President Donald Trump, says the former editorial director of the British Broadcasting Corporation.
In an interview with the West Block’s Eric Sorenson, Richard Ayre said that although “the two men have much in common” given their populist politics, they remain far apart on significant issues like how best to engage with Iran and how to control immigration, which will likely limit the extent of their co-operation.
As well, the fundamental worldviews and skills of the two leaders are drastically different, Ayre added.
“There are very, very serious differences between the two,” he said. “Boris Johnson is a very, very bright guy. Intellectually, he runs rings around Donald Trump. Johnson speaks fluent French, he speaks fluent Italian, he speaks fluent – would you believe it – Latin.
“Donald Trump’s command of even English raises some doubts.”
Michael Wolff, who wrote the book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, quoted unnamed officials from the Trump administration and described them in media interviews last year as expressing concern and confusion about the president’s grasp of language.
“They discuss it at the White House: his apparent inability to read one page or one paragraph. He can’t even follow a PowerPoint,” Wolff told the U.K.’s Daily Mail newspaper. “They wonder where that is from. ADHD? A learning disability? They thought maybe the guy couldn’t read or is semi-literate.”
The White House has dismissed the book as fictitious.
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Johnson won the U.K. Conservative leadership race to replace Theresa May, who resigned as prime minister on Wednesday.
She quit after repeated failures to secure political support to pass the deal negotiated with the European Union for the U.K. to exit the bloc.
Johnson, on the other hand, has flirted with the possibility of a no-deal Brexit, where the U.K. would not secure a negotiated deal to leave the EU and would crash out instead on the Oct. 31 deadline.
Without a deal, default World Trade Organization tariffs and terms will apply until the U.K. negotiates trade deals with EU partners as well as Canada, which only recently concluded a separate free trade deal with the EU, called CETA, that is in the process of becoming fully ratified.
Brexit negotiations and the seizure of British ships by Iran in the Strait of Hormuz have dominated the political agenda for Johnson since he was sworn in last week. He has also torn up plans by May to cut immigration, ordering his officials to instead look into a points-based system without limits.
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Ayre also pointed to comments Johnson made about Trump during the U.S. presidential campaign in 2016.
“President Trump may have forgotten – or if it wasn’t on Fox News, may never have heard – the words uttered by Boris Johnson three years ago during the U.S. presidential campaign when Johnson said Trump showed a quite stupefying ignorance that makes him unfit to hold the office of president of the United States.”
Johnson was reacting to false remarks by Trump in 2015 that there were “no-go” zones in London because of Muslim extremists.
“I would invite him to come and see the whole of London and take him round the city,” Johnson was also quoted as saying at the time. “But I don’t want to expose Londoners to any unnecessary risk of meeting Donald Trump.”
Ayre said all of that will factor into determining how the two will get along politically and suggested Johnson’s political differences from Trump mean he is unlikely to pose a threat to Canadian interests in the same way.
Trump imposed significant tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum last year.
The U.S. also refused to get involved in a diplomatic dispute last year between Canada and Saudi Arabia over human rights.
In addition, Trump’s ongoing trade war with China has snared Canada in the middle with its extradition request for Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou.
China arrested two Canadians just days after her detention by Canadian authorities at the request of the U.S.
Ayre said Johnson’s background suggests he will have many political similarities to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and areas of common interest that will continue to buoy the historic relationship.
“You shouldn’t make too much, I don’t think, of a Trump-Johnson axis.”
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