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The UK’s Brexit ‘MAYhem’

International 16 Nov, 2018 Follow News

The UK’s Brexit ‘MAYhem’

British Prime Minister Theresa may took a hammering Thursday - as did the pound sterling - as a wave of resignations hit her government over her Brexit proposals.

 

Two of her cabinet ministers and four junior ministers quit headlining a wave of internal strife within the ruling Conservative party over Mrs May’s handling of the UK’s divorce from the European Union.

 

And further resignations are not ruled out in the coming days - even hours.

 

Mrs May herself was facing further mutiny within her party as the internal machinery to remove Prime Ministers had shifted into gear.

 

Her plan to bring her controversial Brexit proposal to parliament for approval now seems headed for disaster.

 

It faces the certainty of being be voted down by MPs of her own Conservative Party, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) of Northern Ireland (whose support gives the government a slim parliamentary majority), and the opposition Labour Party.

 

The Prime Minister faces a plethora of problems with the Brexit proposal. But she is doggedly - some say stubbornly - sticking to her guns while support collapses around her.

 

From the unresolved Northern Ireland border issue, to keeping the UK within some semblance of a customs union with the EU, to hard-line ‘Brexiteers’ within her party demanding a clean break, to the opposition accusing her of violating her own ‘red lines’, Thursday was a bad day for Mrs May.

 

Overtures from Brussels that they may - just might - accept what’s on offer has done little to stem the continuing political fallout.

 

One of the vexed issues is the transition period following the March 29th 2019 ‘divorce date’ and what the UK can, or will be ‘allowed’ to do in the intervening period until the divorce becomes ‘final’.

 

Depending on which ‘Brexit deal’ is agreed to, it’s left to be seen if the UK will be ‘allowed’ to sign new trade deals with other countries and how strong its negotiating position would be in an increasingly competitive global economy.

 

There’s talk of a Brexit ‘backstop’ but as one MP put it during a parliamentary appearance on the matter by Mrs May on Thursday, this could be like Hotel California: “You can check out any time you like but you can never leave.”

 

At the forefront of everyone’s mind is the impact on the economy of the present uncertainty and fears of economic instability in the ensuing period.

 

The pound took a pounding Thursday losing value at the resignation announcement of the Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, who had only been in the job since July. He quit over disagreement with the very plan that he is charged with negotiating with his European counterparts.

 

And his junior minister also followed suit today.

 

Mr Raab’s predecessor had quit this past summer for the same reason, and was followed shortly after by the high-profile Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.

 

A slew of other resignations ensued over Brexit, including Mr Johnson’s younger brother Jo Johnson who was a junior minister.

 

The coming days are critical - but not just for Mrs May.

 

Within the Labour Party, there’s also disunity surfacing over Brexit, although not on the scale of the disharmony within the ruling Conservatives.

 

Their point of internal rift is over whether the referendum should be rerun; an increasingly controversial prospect - but for which support is strong in some quarters.

 

The Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and his Brexit Shadow Minister Sir Keir Starmer, have recently voiced divergent views on the matter.

 

With the Labour Party already unimpressed with the current deal proposal, the question is raised of what would become of the Brexit negotiations if Mrs May’s government falls and Labour managed to grab the reins of power?

 

No scenario of possibilities doesn’t seem too far-fetched at the moment.

 

The Brexit divorce date is practically hard-wired into UK law. Article 50, the legal process for withdrawing from the EU, has already been triggered with departure date set for March 29th next year.

 

Should Mrs May’s tenuous but determined hold on power be dislodged - either by a vote of no-confidence triggered from within, or the DUP withdrawing its support - that could trigger an internal power shift and power struggle amongst Conservatives, with hard-line Brexiteers of the Leave campaign locking horns with the Remainers.

 

Mrs May, who as Prime Minister is tasked with taking the UK out of the EU, voted in the referendum as a Remainer.

 

In that scenario, a leadership struggle will ensue with no clear successor yet in the frame although some names keep popping up, including the former Foreign Secretary and ex Mayor of London, Boris Johnson.

 

Will it go to elections? The UK has a fixed date election schedule although a two-thirds majority vote in the House of Commons could force a change. The next election in the five-year parliamentary cycle is due in 2022.

 

And while the prospect looms of the Conservatives ending up in a leadership replacement battle, and the chances of elections - though remote - hovers in the background, the likelihood of a Labour Party victory raises it’s own questions.

 

What then will become of the present Brexit proposal? How much really can they change it? How much time will they have? (EU parliamentary elections are due in May of next year).

 

And, what especially about the Irish border conundrum where the EU (Irish Republic) shares an open border with the UK (Northern Ireland).

 

The likelihood of a hard border between the two neighbours with the need for physical customs checks and their knock-on effects for the free and fast flow of trade between the UK and the UK is a major concern for the business sector on both sides of the border - and not just for the two neighbours.

 

The UK is the EU's second largest single export market for goods, and the EU is the UK’s biggest in that respect.

 

There’s a lot at stake in the coming days.


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