The Britain that has emerged today is different from the one that came before, its old political map erased, its economic model upended, its prospects uncertain—even its very unity in doubt. The Britain built by Tony Blair is gone, fatally undermined by David Cameron’s Brexit referendum and now swept away in a provincial tide of support for Boris Johnson’s Conservatives.
To understand the scale of what has happened, remember that less than four years ago, Johnson was still London’s mayor and undecided about whether to back Leave or Remain in the referendum; Cameron was prime minister, with the first Conservative majority in more than 20 years; and Britain’s economy was among the most dynamic in Europe. A poll carried out the day before Johnson announced that he supported Brexit showed Remain running 15 percentage points ahead of Leave.
With the Brexit vote, the United Kingdom entered a period of rolling political drama. Johnson helped precipitate a crisis, benefited from it, and then called yesterday’s election to end it. In his triumph, he has killed off not just Blair’s Britain, but Cameron’s conservatism too.
In the six months since Johnson took over from Theresa May, his impact has been revolutionary. He has sheared off the Conservative Party’s most liberal wing, radicalized Britain’s divorce deal with the European Union—and won a thumping mandate from the public to see it through. In doing so, he has eliminated the opposition’s chances of blocking Brexit and set the country on course for a future not only outside the EU, but also one that remakes its regulatory, legal, and economic order.