Rishi Sunak Is a Brexit Supporter. Here’s What He’ll Have to Navigate.

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Several months before Britain’s 2016 referendum on leaving the European Union, around the time that Boris Johnson came out in support of Brexit in a dramatic turn, a much lesser-known politician also declared his support.

Rishi Sunak, who on Tuesday became prime minister, broke ranks with then-Prime Minister David Cameron, hailing Brexit as a “once-in-a-generation opportunity for our country to take back control of its destiny.”

In becoming an early supporter of Brexit, Mr. Sunak helped to pave the way for his unusually rapid ascent in British politics. The country’s youngest prime minister in modern times at 42, Mr. Sunak became a member of Parliament just seven years ago and was appointed in 2020 as chancellor of the Exchequer by Mr. Johnson.

His early support of Brexit “put him on that right side of history within the Conservative Party,” said Tony Travers, a professor of politics at the London School of Economics.

“Nobody could say, ‘You were a Remainer and could undermine Brexit,’” Mr. Travers said.

In the years after the vote, as Britain negotiated its exit from the European Union, Mr. Sunak was not part of his party’s hard-line, pro-Brexit wing, which made it difficult for then Prime Minister Theresa May to negotiate a deal. For that reason, when Mr. Sunak ran against Liz Truss in the leadership race this summer, he was viewed with caution by some members of the right-wing of his party, Mr. Travers said.

“He was pro-Brexit, but of a sort of moderate, common sense Brexit, rather than an ideological one,” Mr. Travers said.

Mr. Sunak has so far been tight-lipped about his policy agenda. But Brexit, an issue that has torn apart the Conservative Party for decades, is likely to be among the most contentious issues he faces.

Mr. Sunak, a former hedge fund manager, has favored pro-business policies and is “unlikely to repeal E.U. laws as part of an ideological crusade,” said Mujtaba Rahman, the managing director for Europe for Eurasia Group, in a note to clients.

Any concessions that he makes to Brussels on issues related to Brexit, such accepting a role for the European Court of Justice in overseeing the Northern Ireland Protocol, will likely cause strong opposition from right-wing members of Parliament, Mr. Rahman said.

Mr. Sunak said in August that he would support a bill that would override a set of trade rules negotiated for Northern Ireland, known as the Northern Ireland Protocol, but that he preferred a negotiated settlement with the European Union.

“His raison d’être as a new Conservative Party leader is to calm down the markets and make Britain look like a developed, properly run country again,” Mr. Travers said. “I doubt very very much he’d want to give any impression of breaching international rules or protocols or treaties.”

Graham Brady, the chairman of a committee of Conservative backbenchers in Parliament, said that Conservative members of Parliament across the party have warmly welcomed Mr. Sunak, and members are ready for a leader who has the right instincts and understands the necessity for pragmatism.

“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the new prime minister not seeking confrontation,” Mr. Brady said.

Sumber: www.nytimes.com

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