The UK House of Commons does not want Brexit, and on three occasions, it voted down the deal that Theresa May’s government negotiated with the European Union, which would have eased the country out of the bloc gently. However, MPs do not want a hasty no-deal exit either, and have also rejected Boris Johnson’s plans for leaving the European Union on October 31 do or die.
However, MPs feel that there is not enough time left now before this date to come to a fresh exit agreement, different from Theresa May’s deal. So the deadline for leaving the European Union could now be pushed back to January 30, 2020, which according to Parliament, would be a better date for the UK to exit the EU with the agreement of the remaining 27.
It is worth raising several points on this issue:
1 – What has happened since the initial March 29 exit date to put MPs in this hasty situation less than two months from the new deadline?
The quest for political balance right throughout the lengthy process to appoint a new prime minister ground all new initiatives to a halt and dwindled the chances of considering new options. The two months between Theresa May’s resignation on May 24 and BoJo’s appointment on July 24 were wasted time and took up a huge chunk of the extension granted by the EU.
2 – An extension beyond October 31 is only possible if the EU agrees. EU countrieswill be meeting on October 17 and 18 to discuss Brexit. Dissenters have already made their views known, with the French president, Spain and some others already expressing their frustration at the extension to October 31. As recently as September 5, Amélie de Montchalin, French Secretary of State for European affairs, again referred to a likely no-deal Brexit on October 31, soEurope could well take the wind out of British MPs’ sails.
3 – At the European summit on April 10, the different countries did not seem to be united on the issue of the extension. So it would be preferable for the next summit in October to be able to set aside this issue, as the various member countries need to show a united front on October 17 and 18.
4 – It may be in Europe’s best interests to swiftly cut ties. The Brexit issue is at the forefront of everyone’s minds, it creates uncertainty and delays the potential economic impacts that could be felt depending on the final exit scenario. Europe needs to get this matter cleared up quickly.
5 – The British economy is also hampered by this situation. The country’s growth is now much lower than the pace across the other G7 countries and corporate investment is 11% lower than it could have been without a referendum, so the price is high.
6 – Boris Johnson has lost and his coup has failed. Parliament will not support him and in an ultimate humiliation, he cannot call an early election for October 15 just ahead of the crucial end-October deadline either (he will ask Parliament to call an election during the next sitting on Monday 9, but he will not win a two-thirds majority if the election date is too soon). From a London perspective, there can be no Brexit on October 31, whatever happens.
BoJo no longer has a parliamentary majority after Phillip Lee’s defection and the 21 Conservative rebels had the whip withdrawn, so the whole system is now in deadlock.
It looks like there is no possible outcome for this political chaos. BoJo’s resignation may look like a potential solution, but there is the question of his successor and the time required to appoint him or her, so this would be a risky move given the state of the party and its shaky situation in the House of Commons.
The whole situation needs a fresh start and this will probably involve a general election at a date beyond October 15 (the next general election in the UK must take place by May 5, 2022).
However there is a risk that no party will win a majority: thiswill call to mind the latest election that Theresa May called on June 8, 2017, when she only managed to scrape together a majority with the support of a small group of MPs from the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party.
Achieving a clear majority looks like mission impossible in light of the sea change in British right-wing politics after recent events – both within the Conservative party and as a result of competition from Nigel Farage – as well as the rising influence of the Lib Dems, and wariness of Labour leader Corbyn, who wants to nationalize at any cost. The swift election that Johnson wanted would have forced each candidate to clearly state their remain or leave position. This would admittedly make the whole situation much easier for any new prime minister, but this majority would be Brexit-based and would only last a short time. Any elections taking place well after the October 31 date would raise different questions, although this would not make it any easier to establish a clear majority and choose a prime minister. The fundamental questions raised during the June 2016 referendum will not just fade away into the political background.
Against this backdrop and with no decisive majority to make a clear decision, it is in Europe’s interests to put paid to any further extension. In other words, political chaos would not be resolved by a general election, but rather a hard Brexit scenario would then be on the cards.
To eliminate all doubt, and in light of the government’s and MPs’ inability to come to an agreement that no-one wants anyway, a fresh referendum is needed. This time no-one can say they were unaware after the first vote on June 23, 2016. At the time, the UK voted 51.89% to leave the European Union. Now it is up to them to confirm their decision …or not. They must now take their future into their own hands, because the government and Parliament have failed to do so.
Posted in French: 5 September 2019