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The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Boris Johnson Talks Democracy, Israel-Hamas War and Brexit

Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Boris Johnson emphasized the importance of protecting democracy worldwide at Georgetown University at an April 11 event.


The Georgetown Institute of Politics and Public Service (GU Politics) and the Walsh School of Foreign Service (SFS) hosted the conversation, called “The Global Fight for Democracy,” with GU Politics Executive Director Mo Elleithee (SFS ’94) moderating. At the event, Johnson, a member of the U.K.’s Conservative Party who served as the country’s prime minister from 2019 to 2022, argued democracy is the only morally and economically effective form of governing.


“The case we need to make for democracy is that it’s not only the right thing, but that it’s also the thing — no matter how stressful and painful it is — it’s also the thing that produces the greatest prosperity,” Johnson said at the event.


Elleithee said the event’s goal was to provide students with an international perspective on democracy.  


“All year long, we’ve focused on the issue of trust in democracy, an issue that is relevant beyond our borders,” Elleithee wrote to The Hoya. “We were excited to give Georgetown students the chance to engage with a leader who could provide an international perspective.”


Johnson’s remarks come as political polarization and support for authoritarianism are on the rise.  Thirty-two percent of Americans and 37% of Brits support authoritarianism, according to a 2024 Pew Research Center survey.


Johnson also encouraged Western countries to provide financial and military support to Ukraine in its war against Russia, saying Ukraine’s continued success is largely due to Western aid. 


“They’ve done it mainly because of the heroism of Ukrainian armed forces, but they’ve also done it because of Western support,” Johnson said. “I want to pay tribute to the United States of America, because without the sheer weight of American support, it might’ve been very different.” 


Although the U.S. Senate passed a $95 billion proposal for foreign aid in February, including $60 billion in aid to Ukraine, the bill is currently stalled in the U.S. House of Representatives.


“I think the Ukrainians can and will win, but they can only win with Western support,” Johnson said.

@GUPolitics/X | Former Prime Minster of the United Kingdom Boris Johnson talked the state of democracy worldwide, foreign policy issues such as Ukraine and the conflict between Israel and Hamas and his tenure as Prime Minister in an April 11 conversation in Gaston Hall.

Johnson also addressed the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. Following Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks that killed around 1,200 people and resulted in Hamas’s capture of over 240 hostages, Israel launched an ongoing military campaign that has resulted in the death of over 34,000 Palestinians as of April 12. 


Johnson said the United Kingdom, the United States and other countries should continue to support Israel, despite the deaths of thousands of civilians in Gaza. 


“I think it’s a nightmare,” Johnson said. “I wish it would end, but I cannot see an easy solution, and I certainly cannot count a solution in which we drop our basic support for the only democracy in the region and allow Hamas to win. For that reason, I wholly oppose an arms embargo on Israel, and I think it is bizarre that six months after the biggest massacre of Jewish people since the Second World War, that is where we’ve gone to.”


Johnson began his term as Prime Minister in July 2019, leading his party to a landslide election victory in December of that year. During his term in office, Johnson finalized Brexit, the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union (EU), with the United Kingdom officially leaving the EU in January 2020. Later that year, Johnson lead the United Kingdom’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 


Johnson said Brexit had many positive impacts on the United Kingdom and has allowed the country to escape bureaucratic red tape.


“The United Kingdom didn’t want to be endlessly locked into something which was trying to create a single political entity and eroding their democratic freedoms,” Johnson said. “I think part of the problem was that we had a system of top-down bureaucratic regulations that wasn’t responsive to what people really wanted. That’s what the EU was driving.”


A 2023 study titled “Early Impacts of the Post-Brexit Immigration System on the UK Labour Market” from the think tank Centre for European Reform found that Brexit has resulted in a shortfall of 330,000 jobs in the United Kingdom, with the U.K. economy shrinking by 0.9% since 2019.


Johnson said the United Kingdom has a bright future because of the country’s newfound political and economic freedom after Brexit. 


“The U.K. in the EU would not have taken the line on Ukraine that we did,” Johnson said. “The future of the U.K. is going to be great.” 


Johnson said the United Kingdom needs to stick up for democracy with more vigor, adding that the outcome of the war in Ukraine is crucial for the global fight against democracy.


“I think that we need to be more robust and more optimistic about sticking up for democracy around the world,” Johnson said. “The crucial thing is that Ukraine needs to win and Putin needs to lose, and that will advance the course of democracy more than any other single thing.”

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