As the quarrel heats up between the EU and the United Kingdom over a post referendum settlement, this has livened the dull and protracted BREXIT negotiations. There is no overestimating the fact that a “no deal Brexit” could prove to be a joke too far if the negotiations fail to produce a soft BREXIT as it could all end in tears and financial ruin for the UK economy .
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt this week issued a veiled threat to the French President Emmanuel Macron in a conversation on the BBC Radio 4. He urged the French president to “ditch his hard-line stance and do Brexit deal with Britain or risk the UK being forced to become an off shore competitor to the European Union”. Mr Hunt spoke in response to Mr Macron’s criticism of the Brexiters whom he labelled as “anger mongers backed by fake news whose lies and irresponsibility have thrown the whole EU in danger”. Brexit is a word that is used as a shorthand way of saying the UK leaving the European Union. Prior to and after the UK referendum those politicians and financial backers who voted to leave the European Union have since been labelled ‘Brexiters’ and their opponents ‘Remainers’.
A referendum vote in which everyone of voting age could participate – was held on Thursday 23 June, 2016 to decide whether the UK should leave or remain in the European Union. The Brexiters won by 51.9% to 48.1%. The referendum turnout was 71.8%, with more than 30 million people across the UK voting. Prime Minister David Cameron who presided over the referendum resigned. Shortly after, Theresa May was selected by the Tories as Prime Minister with a difficult mandate to lead the government Brexit negotiations. She inherited a split party and Cabinet over whether to remain or leave the European Union and was also tasked to figuring out to which European exit strategy to adopt. Initially, Theresa May was against Brexit during her early days, but promised to support a Brexit once she was sworn into office. We at Kingstonmouth felt -at that time- that she did so hastily without weighing up the consequences.
At the beginning of the Brexit negotiations The British Prime Minister asserted that the main point of having a deal between the UK and the EU is to ensure as smooth as possible an exit from the EU for businesses and individuals. Additionally, it would allow time for the two sides to hammer out a permanent trading relationship acceptable to both sides.
On the 29 March 2017 she set out her negotiating goals in a letter to the EU council president Donald Tusk. She outlined her plans for a transition period after Brexit in a big speech in Florence, Italy. She then set out her thinking on the kind of trading relationship the UK wants with the EU, in a speech in March 2018 she opined “there’s no escaping the task ahead of us”. The intent of this speech was to send a signal to the British public that reaching a deal would be an onerous task.
Since the negotiation has ensued under her premiership there have been several resignations from the Conservative Government and recently there have been six members of parliaments resigning for the British Labour Party; they want the opposition Leader to call for a second referendum. On 23 June 2016 when the referendum was held, the people of Scotland voted decisively to remain within the European Union (EU).Subsequently, the triggering of Article 50, the UK Government has still not gained the UK or Scottish Parliament’s agreement to a deal and has failed to engage meaningfully with the European Union on a Brexit settlement with an exit date set for the 29th of March 2019.
The leader of Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, ditheringly says he accepts the referendum result and that Brexit is going to happen. However, he opposes Theresa May’s Brexit plan, and wants to stop it and force a general election. If however, it stops the PM’s plan and there is no general election he says the option of a new referendum would be on the table.
In order for the UK to leave the EU the new Prime Minster Theresa May had to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty which gives the EU and the UK two years to agree the terms of the split. Theresa May the British Prime Minister triggered this process on 29 March, 2017, meaning the UK is scheduled to leave at 11pm UK time on Friday, 29 March 2019. This by all intent and purpose has gone awry. These therefore cause us to believe that the government of the UK might have to ask the European parliament or commission for a new deadline date to come to an agreement.
The assumption now is that EU might agree to extend Article 50 if its leaders feel it would help smooth the process or if there was a chance the UK could end up staying in, possibly through another referendum. The European court has ruled recently that the UK can decide to halt the process and stay in the EU at any time up to the deadline. This is an indication that the court is anticipating a possible change of heart on the part of the United Kingdom.
After months of negotiation, the UK and EU agreed the first phase of an interim Brexit deal. It comes in two parts: a 585-page withdrawal agreement was drawn up and circulated in both the British and EU parliaments. This is a legally-binding document that sets the terms of the UK’s divorce from the EU. It outlines how much money the UK owes the EU – an estimated £39bn – and what happens to UK citizens living elsewhere in the EU and EU citizens living in the UK. It also proposes a method of avoiding the return of a physical Northern Ireland border famously described as a ‘back stop’. It refers to a period of time after 29 March, 2019, to 31 December, 2020 (or perhaps later), to put everything in place and allow businesses and others to prepare for the moment when the new post-Brexit rules commence. It also allows more time for the details of the new relationship to be fully struck. Free movement will continue during the transition period, as the EU wanted. The UK will be able to strike its own trade deals – although they won’t be able to come into force until 1 January 2021. This transition period is currently only due to happen if the UK and the EU agree a Brexit deal. The head of the EU negotiation together with the leadership of the EU warned at the time that there was no alternative deal on offer by the EU. The proposed agreement triggered several resignations from Theresa Mays Cabinet to include her Brexit Secretary David Davis and chief Negotiator Dominic Raab. They cited that the proposed deal would leave Britain open to the dictates of the European Union Rule Book as reasons for their resignation. Since then Theresa May has taken full control of the negotiation with the current negotiator situated in the Prime Ministers Office.
On the 15th of January 2019, MPs voted by 432 votes to 202 to reject the deal, which sets out the terms of Britain’s exit from the EU on 29 March. Roughly 118 Conservative MPs – from both the Leave and Remain wings of her party – voted with the opposition parties against Mrs May’s deal. It was the largest defeat for a sitting government in history. The defeat is a huge blow for Mrs May, who has spent more than two years hammering out a deal with the EU only to be later instructed by the parliament to negotiate an alternative deal. Many felt that she would have resigned but she has held on with steely determination. And her many critics don’t agree on the direction she is taking. She is caught between a rock and a hard place as the Parliament is split between those calling a more dramatic break with the EU, or a tighter, softer version of Brexit. Yet, Mrs May is trying to get a better deal from the EU. She wants to get changes to the legal text she agreed with the 27 other member states. Meanwhile, the EU is unwilling to give her a bespoke deal that would be against the European core values of free movements of goods and people among its member’s states.
Immigration has been a big issue a big issue for Brexit supporters leading up to and after the referendum. They want Britain to take back full control of its borders and reduce the number of people that come to the UK to live and work. Conversely, one of the main principles of EU membership is “free movement”, which means you don’t need to get a visa to go and live in another EU country. The Brexiteers also objected to the idea of “ever closer union” between EU member states and what they see as moves towards the creation of a “United States of Europe”. The other bone of contention for the Brexiteers is the negotiated back-stop agreed by the British Government and the EU in the first phases of the negotiations. The backstop agreed between the two parties would keep Northern Ireland aligned to some EU rules on things like food products and goods standards. That would prevent the need for checks on goods at the Irish border, but would require some products being brought to Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK to be subject to new checks and controls. The Brexiteers fear that it could leave Britain tied to the EU indefinitely with no say over its rules and no ability to strike trade deals with other countries.
Based on the current political hustling in Parliament, it is safe to assume that neither the Government nor the Opposition Labour party is keen on stopping Brexit, as this would require a change in the law in the UK, something neither the government nor the main UK opposition parties are keen to do at this point. Nor is there sufficient support to force a second referendum currently although that position cannot be ruled out for the future. The opposition leader Mr Corbyn has not ruled out getting behind another referendum but he wants to explore other options, such as toppling the government and forcing a general election first. In the new round of negotiations being sought by Theresa may with the EU she also wants to discuss a time limit on the backstop and a “unilateral exit” mechanism to be laid out in the text of the exit agreement to appease her Brexit critics. However, the EU has maintained that the text will remain as it is.
As the negotiations advance, it is expected that as frustration mounts to forge a Brexit deal, barbs and counter barbs are expected to be traded on both sides of the channel .In fact the negotiations between have previously been heated between the former Brexit Secretary David Davis and the EU Negotiator Michel Barnier. In a tense press conference in August of 2017 both officials in a heated disagreement traded barbs. During talks about a financial settlement and citizen’s right and the single market Barnier was scathing in his remarks towards David Davis. He said the UK’s approach to Brexit was nostalgic and underlined by a lack of trust. He accused the then British Secretary of “wanting to enjoy the benefits of the single market without actually being a part of it”. His scathing remarks drew an irate response from David Davis who accused him of “confusing a belief in the free market with nostalgia”.
It is expected that bitter debates between both parties typify the negotiations, as the possibility of a no deal looms largely. With only a few weeks to the deadline for an agreement it is a sure bet that the UK parliament will have to request an extension of the deal. Based upon the antagonistic parties involved, especially on the UK side, it is questionable whether a deal might be reached in the near future. Kingstonmouth hold the view that as the saga continues an independent arbitrator will eventually have to intervene, or a second referendum might be necessary to unravel this painful BREXIT.
This article was written by Donovan Reynolds CEO and edited by Ann Smith Managing editor of Kingstonmouth.com. Donovan Reynolds is an Independent blogger and Human Right’s Activist of Jamaican descent and a qualified Diplomat who has an interest in Human Rights, Culture and International Development issues. Readers of this article are welcome to provide feedback at the space provided at the end of this article at firstname.lastname@example.org useful commentary made on our Facebook and Kingsonmouth@twitter pages.