LONDON — In his first full week as Britain’s new prime minister, Boris Johnson was booed by nationalists in Scotland. He upset farmers in Wales and unsettled politicians in Northern Ireland. And he moved his girlfriend into Downing Street, watched his coalition’s majority in Parliament shrink even further and saw the pound fall to a two-and-a-half-year low.
It was, as they say, eventful.
Johnson kicked off his tour of the Not-So-United Kingdom on Monday, arriving in Edinburgh to meet Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Tensions over Brexit remain high between the two leaders as Johnson plans to steer Britain out of the European Union by Oct. 31 — with or without a deal. While Britain voted to leave the European Union, Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain.
Ahead of the meeting, Sturgeon made her feelings pretty clear: “The people of Scotland did not vote for this Tory government, they didn’t vote for this new prime minister, they didn’t vote for Brexit, and they certainly didn’t vote for a catastrophic no-deal Brexit, which Boris Johnson is now planning for,” she said.
Sturgeon recently penned a letter to Johnson reminding him that “the right of the people of Scotland to determine their own future is a basic democratic principle that must be respected.”
Although he denies being disliked in Scotland, Johnson ducked out of Sturgeon’s residence using the back door in an apparent bid to avoid another frosty reception from protesters outside.
Johnson also worked in a visit to Scottish naval base, HMNB Clyde, on Monday, where he was photographed sporting a personalized jacket with his new job title written on the lapel.
The jacket prompted some on social media to question whether he had forgotten his job already, while others pointed out the fit was not so great. The Guardian later reported the jacket was a gift from the Ministry of Defense.
On Tuesday, Johnson continued to ruffle some more feathers in South Wales, where he visited a local farm and inspected eggs and chickens. Farmers have been vocal about their concerns over the future and what a no-deal Brexit driven by Britain’s new leader could mean for their precious farming industry.
“I will always back Britain’s great farmers, and as we leave the E.U., we need to make sure that Brexit works for them,” Johnson said during a day spent clutching some puzzled-looking birds.
Johnson faced more angry protests in Cardiff, Wales, as he arrived to meet First Minister Mark Drakeford. Crowds held placards that called him a “liar” and waved European flags.
There were no chickens, but he could not entirely escape the birds. “Mr. Johnson, I despise you more than the seagulls on bin day,” read one handwritten sign.
Northern Ireland was next on the itinerary. On Wednesday, Johnson met in Belfast with the five main parties. While remaining conflicted on myriad issues, the leaders were in agreement over one thing: Johnson’s threat to leave the E.U. without a deal would be dangerous.
Despite Northern Ireland being slated to leave the E.U. along with the rest of the United Kingdom by Oct. 31, Sinn Fein’s president, Mary Lou McDonald, said that in the event of a hard Brexit, she would push for a vote for Northern Ireland to leave the United Kingdom.
It was not all rough news for Johnson during his inaugural week as prime minister. One poll showed his Conservative Party with a 10-point lead over the opposition Labour Party, led by Jeremy Corbyn. The same survey had Johnson leading Corbyn on leadership ratings, 52 percent to 27 percent.
Then came Thursday. The Conservative candidate in Wales lost his bid to retain his seat in Parliament. Making matters worse for Johnson, who is trying to deliver Brexit with a paper-thin working majority, the seat was picked up by the Liberal Democrats, which worked in a pact with other unabashedly pro-E.U. parties and are calling for a second Brexit referendum.
As The Washington Post’s William Booth wrote today: In a flash, the new math has only gotten worse for Johnson.