How powerful is the British Prime Minister? | Europe | DW

Especially when it comes to foreign policy, Johnson faces major challenges with Brexit and tensions in the Gulf region. Without a doubt, as Prime Minister of the UK, he will be one of the most powerful people in the world.

“Top jobs” and their limitations

Like the German chancellor, the British prime minister, as part of his political competence, determines the direction of government policy or, as the UK government website puts it, “is ultimately responsible for government policies and decisions.

The man or woman in Downing Street appoints cabinet ministers, determines or confirms the appointment of ambassadors and heads of intelligence, and oversees the work of government ministries and agencies. Until a few years ago, prime ministers, such as the head of state, Queen Elizabeth II, had the power to propose dissolving Parliament and calling new elections. This possibility was eliminated by a law introduced in 2011.

The claim that the political power of the British head of government is unlimited is not quite true. Its limitations were recently demonstrated as a result of the chaos surrounding Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union. As a general rule, the prime minister, as the head of the leading party in the House of Commons, has broad decision-making powers. But bitter disagreements over the “Brexit” deal negotiated by Theresa May with Brussels, in which she failed three times in the face of a Parliament unable to achieve a majority, have raised new questions about the true political power of the head of government, especially in times of crisis. “He’s still in office but not really in power,” the BBC wrote two days before May’s announcement of May’s resignation.

Queen makes a promise and can fire (theoretically)

Fans of the Netflix series “The Crown” know this, and the 2006 film “The Queen” also demonstrates a tradition: if a new prime minister is appointed, there will be an audience at Buckingham Palace, where the queens formally give their consent to form a government. Given that “at Your Majesty’s discretion”, the queen, in theory, could cancel the appointment at any time. In practice, he fires the head of government only if he resigns.

Even after the appointment, the prime minister and the king remain in constant contact. Once a week, heads of government and heads of state meet and discuss current political issues. If a private meeting is not possible, a phone call is made. Although the queen is committed to political neutrality, she has the “right and duty to speak on government matters” during highly classified sessions, according to the royal family’s website.

Secret Letter to the Royal Navy

Formally, the queen heads the British Armed Forces, but de facto The head of government carries out the task as the supreme commander. Thus, only he can permit the use of nuclear weapons.

In the event of a death in an enemy nuclear strike, each prime minister, at the beginning of his mandate, writes a confidential letter to the commanders of four Royal Navy submarines carrying intercontinental ballistic missiles from Britain’s Trident nuclear program.

The number of possible instructions in so-called “letters of last resort” is very limited, historian Matthew Selig told the BBC in 2016: “Do nothing; launch retaliatory attacks; offer yourself to allies like the United States; use your own consideration.” Facing the change of prime minister, the letters of the old incumbents were destroyed without being read.

(mn / jov)

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