Britain’s Brexit Woes and Where They Go From Here
by Matthew Rosa Ruane
Staff British Ambassador
In America, the world of European politics can be a bit of a foreign concept to us (pun is entirely recognized). As complicated as the feuds and policy decisions of the United States government are, Europe is far worse than you could imagine. This article is going to dive in on the most eminent disaster-in-waiting to face Europe: Brexit.
Brexit, or the British exit from the European Union, has been an over three year process, all started by a referendum to leave the E.U. in June of 2016. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “If they already voted to leave, why didn’t they leave already?” Well, curious reader, the original ballot never asked questions about how they should leave or what the parameters of a deal with the E.U. to leave would be, leaving all of that up to the lawmakers. Due to a lack of anticipation of the Brexit campaign succeeding, British Parliament scrambled to form coalitions to get their form of Brexit to go through. The Labour party leads a decently tight coalition of the more liberal British political parties that wish to remain in the European Union. This is countered by a very fragmented coalition of right-leaning political parties, led by the Conservative party, who all want Brexit to varying degrees. Some wish for a no-deal Brexit, in which the United Kingdom cuts all ties with the E.U., while others seek a deal that would allow the United Kingdom to obtain total sovereignty while retaining things like trade ties. Vicious debates and countless resignations have profoundly shaken up the political landscape of the United Kingdom. Pro-Brexiteers claim that the E.U.’s claim on British sovereignty has gone too far and that it’s about time they reclaim their right to govern. On the other hand, Remainers feel that the sheer economic impact of leaving, and much more importantly leaving without a deal, would be too catastrophic for the U.K. economy to handle.
All of that is just the general background information. Since the referendum, two prime ministers and dozens of government ministers have resigned in either protest or defeat due to the government’s handling of the Brexit. The prime minister who remained in power for the Brexit process up until this point was Conservative leader Theresa May. May was tapped after the resignation of David Cameron, the prime minister who called up the referendum and simultaneously resigned after the vote went in favor of leaving the E.U. May was handed a bad situation, and many feel she made her best attempt to find middle ground between the three groups she had to answer to: Brexiteers, Remainers, and the E.U. itself. After tireless negotiation, May finally put together a deal with the E.U. to no avail. Her own government served her defeat after defeat until she was forced to call it quits and resign. Taking her place is former London mayor and major Brexit supporter, Boris Johnson. Johnson has claimed that he refuses to delay Brexit any longer and that with or without a deal, the United Kingdom will leave the E.U. on October 31.
September 3, 2019, however, may have spelled the end for Johnson’s plans for the United Kingdom to leave the E.U.. Johnson had been banking on the ability to threaten a no-deal Brexit in order to convince the E.U. to negotiate with him. As much economic damage as the U.K. would take on, the rest of the European Union would feel it as well. September 3, all of that changed when parliament voted to push a motion that would not allow the U.K. to leave the E.U. without a deal and force Johnson to ask for more delays in the process. This came as many members of Johnson’s own party betrayed his leadership and stood with the opposition to prevent a no-deal Brexit. Running out of options, Johnson has threatened to call a snap general election, taunting the opposition party leader to allow the people to choose who they would rather negotiate in Brussels, where the headquarters of the E.U. are located. Jeremy Corbyn, the opposition leader of the Labour party, has said once the law outlawing a no-deal Brexit passes, he would agree to a general election, which does little to help Johnson. So that’s where Johnson stands, between his promises to leave on October 31 and the harsh reality of the opposition being able to stop him from following through. And so as they say in London, he’s really up the junction on this one.